Tennessee: TVA considers more renewable power

Tennessee: TVA considers more renewable power

March 12th, 2009 in Local Regional News

Wind, solar and biomass could power much of the growing electrical demand in the Tennessee Valley if TVA accepts the renewable generation proposals it received this winter.

TVA spokesman Jim Allen said Wednesday that TVA "is conducting deeper evaluations" of a number of proposals submitted by other power producers to supply electricity to TVA from renewable energy sources. Among more than 60 proposals submitted to TVA, the federal utility now is evaluating ones that collectively could generate more power from the wind, sun and plant life than an entire nuclear reactor may generate, Mr. Allen said.

The utility is reviewing plans for up to 1,250 megawatts of power from wind, 25 megawatts from biomass and 10 megawatts from solar, Mr. Allen said.

Each of TVA's Sequoyah Nuclear Power reactors is capable of generating about 1,200 megawatts of electricity.

TVA officials declined to identify any of the power proposals being evaluated or the power prices included in the bids "for competitive reasons," Mr. Allen said.

TVA asked for the renewable power proposals in December as part of its strategic plan to get more than half its power from zero or low carbon-emitting sources by 2020.

"This is an important step in helping TVA achieve its goal," TVA Vice President Van Wardlaw said in a prepared statement.

TVA now generates less than 40 megawatts of power from such renewable sources. TVA's existing power from solar, wind, biomass and geothermal sources is more expensive than that produced by coal, nuclear or hydro dams in most instances. The extra cost for renewable energy is paid for from nearly 13,000 individuals and businesses who voluntarily pay higher electric rates through the Green Power Switch program.

Stephen Smith, executive director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said TVA's request for renewable fuel power generation "is an important first step."

A recent study by the Southern Alliance estimates that TVA and other Southern utilities could get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources such as solar, wind, biomass and geothermal by 2020.

Congress is debating proposals to require a renewable portfolio standard of between 12.5 percent and 20 percent of generation by 2020 to help curb global warming and to clean up the air. A similar plan was rejected by the Congress last year, even though public power producers such as TVA would not have had to meet that standard.

TVA plans to reduce its carbon emissions and meet its growing energy demands with new nuclear plants, purchased renewable power and energy efficiency, according to TVA's strategic plan adopted in early 2008.

"TVA is being astute in recognizing there is a high probability of a renewable portfolio standard being adopted this year, and they need to be ready," Mr. Smith said. "TVA has lost its leadership in the Southeast for renewable power generation, and we feel like the TVA board could do far more to encourage renewable generation."