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 facilities and 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 §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 2 feet above a sloped roof or 4 feet above a one story flat roof (the typical height of a railing).  Consistent with all 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 §§1304.203, 1304.302, and 1304.212.

B. Land-based solar panels

a) 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 §1304.209.  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 allow land-based solar panels on TVA Land.  An exception would be made for campgrounds or marinas operating on TVA land.

b) On private land where TVA retains flowage easement (either the right to flow water or the right to prevent and remove structures) land-based solar panels will require TVA approval (§1304.209 does not apply where TVA retains flowage easements).  They are considered obstructions to flood control (§1304.300) and their construction requires approval from TVA. Property owners must apply for a Section 26a permit for land-based solar panels. 

C. Electrical Standards

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 1304.209(c).  Approval of solar panels installed to provide power to structures other than the water use facility requires a variance to 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, Land & Shoreline Management also approves the variance required to install such facilities.

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, all requests involving solar panels will include the following reviews.   

1. Environmental Review

  1. Would the proposed action potentially affect the 100-year floodplain?
  2. Would the proposed action generate or release special waste?
  3. Would the proposed action produce visual contrast or visual discord? 

2. Programmatic Coordination

  1. Clean Energy Technology, Technology Innovations, Environment & Technology.
  2. Generation Partners, Power Contracts, Commercial Operations & Pricing
  3. Structured Products, Power Origination, Commercial Operations & Pricing

E. Cost Recovery

Requests will be handled as Category III ($1,000 or full cost recovery) based on the increased environmental review and the variance required. For large or controversial requests, full cost recovery should be used.