Solar Panel Approvals

1. Purpose

To support TVA’s goal of promoting renewable energy resources, TVA will review Section 26a applications for (1) water‐use facilities that incorporate solar panels into the design and (2) stand alone, land‐based solar panels.  This guidance contains the requirements for the structural standards of such water-use facilities and land-based structures and addresses the environmental and programmatic reviews required.


2. Scope

This guidance shall apply to all requests for water-use facilities and land‐based structures under the jurisdiction of Section 26a of the TVA Act.

3. Instructions

When a Section 26a permit application is received by TVA requesting a land‐based solar panel or a water‐use facility containing a solar panel, staff will follow the standard process for reviewing an application, while incorporating the following additional items in the review.

A. Solar Panels on Water-use facilities

Water‐use facilities containing solar panels must conform to the standards of Section 1304.204. For example, solar panels cannot be installed in a manner to create a covered second story, increase the footprint of the dock above the allowable square footage, or be used as side enclosures on docks and piers.  Additionally, solar panels will generally not be permitted to extend two feet above a sloped roof or four feet above a one-story flat roof (the typical height of a railing).  Solar panels that extend the roof overhang to more than two feet will be incorporated into the facility footprint calculation.  On fixed water-use facilities, the panels would need to be situated at least one foot above the 100-year flood elevation and could only be approved if they do not exceed the standards in Section 1304.204.  Consistent with all Section 26a permits, applicants agree to the conditions of a Vegetation Management Plan (VMP).  The VMP associated with permits including solar panels will be consistent with Sections 1304.203, 1304.302, and 1304.212.

B. Land-based solar panels

  1. Solar panels along the shoreline are considered an obstruction affecting flood control and thereby require approval for construction according to Section 26a of the TVA Act.  Solar panels are not an approved permanent, land‐based structure on TVA land as provided by Section 1304.209(a). Furthermore, TVA Land Policy prohibits the use of reservoir properties for private infrastructure unless “TVA determines no practicable alternatives exist” (TVA Land Policy, approved 11‐30‐06). Therefore, TVA will not consider land‐based solar panels on TVA residential access shoreland.


  2. In accordance with Section 1304.300(b), on private land where TVA retains flowage easement (either the right to flow water or the right to prevent and remove structures or both), the restrictions of Section 1304.209 do not apply.  Land‐based solar panels on these lands are considered obstructions affecting flood control (Section 1304.300) and their construction requires approval from TVA.  Property owners must apply for a Section 26a permit for land‐based solar panels.

    In accordance with Section 1304.407, land-based solar panels that are located within either the 100-year floodplain or the flood storage zone (normally the 500-year floodplain) are not repetitive actions TVA has determined to be approvable without further review.  Applicants for land-based solar panels located below the flood storage zone elevation would need to provide a no practical alternative analysis as required by Section 1304.407(c) to TVA with their application.  Consistent with Executive Order 11988 and TVA’s NEPA Procedures Sections 1308.600-1308.605, actions located in the 100-year floodplain are also subject to a 14-day public notice period on TVA’s public website.


C. Electrical Standards

  1. As with all Section 26a permits, the electrical components must meet and be installed in accordance with all state and local electrical codes and standards and Section 1304.209(c) (if there is land-based electrical service).  Approval of solar panels installed to provide power to structures other than the water-use facility requires a variance to Section 1304.209(c)(1)(ii) which requires that utility lines within the access corridor solely serve water-use facilities.  Approval of this guidance by the Vice President or designee also approves the variance required to install such facilities.


  2. For installations of self-contained solar panel systems on water-use facilities (i.e. no land based electrical service or panels), these must be installed in accordance with all state and local electrical codes and standards (including requirements for ground fault protection when required) and must be completely contained on the water-use facility.


  3. In accordance with Section 1304.301(b), installations of solar panels or associated electrical service on private land where TVA retains flowage easement (either the right to flow water or the right to prevent and remove structures), the electrical service shall be installed with an electrical disconnect that is located above the 500-year floodplain or the flood risk profile, whichever is higher, and is accessible during flood events.


D. Environmental and Programmatic Reviews

TVA completes certain environmental and programmatic reviews on all Section 26a applications.  In addition to other environmental and programmatic reviews deemed necessary by staff, some requests involving solar panels may be coordinated with Regional Relations, Commercial Energy Solutions, and/or the local power company.  If a solar installation does not involve an interconnection with an applicant’s electrical system, then such reviews will not be needed.

E. Additional Information Required

In addition to standard application information required for a Section 26a permit request, the following additional information will be necessary for reviews of requests involving solar panels.  Applicants are responsible for submitting design plans and specifications of the solar installation to the local power company and obtaining their acknowledgment/approval.

If an interconnect with the applicant’s electrical system is involved, the following must be included the application:

  1. Name of local power company including name and service address on the account with the local power company
  2. Name and contact information of the solar installer
  3. Design plans and specifications for the installation.  Plans should note any ground fault protection devices that are required by state or local codes.

F. Cost Recovery

Requests will be handled as Category II ($500 application fee).  For requests that involve an elevated environmental and/or programmatic review, the project will be reviewed as a major action (Category III) with $1,000 application fee and full cost recovery.