As the Tennessee Valley wraps up its warmest October start on record, the solar industry on Saturday will show off the power of the sun to keep things cool.
The National Solar Tour this weekend will showcase solar farms and solar energy installations at 858 sites in 46 states across the country, including an open house from 2-4 p.m. Saturday at a Rossville solar farm developed by the Chattanooga-based Alicity Group.
Solar power generated about 2% of America's electricity supply last year and the Solar Energy Industries Association industry group published a roadmap Monday branded as the "Solar+Decade" to increase solar power to 20 percent of U.S. power generation by 2030.
TVA currently has 1,099 megawatts of installed solar power, which helped TVA meet three of its top four power peaks ever for October this week when peak demands topped 28,000 megawatts Monday through Thursday amid record-breaking temperatures.
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The Rossville Solar Farm at 901 Glentana Road in Rossville, Georgia, is opening its doors Saturday from 2-4 p.m. for the National Solar Tour. Alicity Development LLC, which built and operates the 6-acre solar-generating facility, invites the public to see solar panels up close, learn how solar power works from the ground up, and understand how it's used by TVA and EPB.
With three of TVA's nuclear reactors down or on limited power production this week due to maintenance outages, TVA turned to nearly all other forms of power generation in its portfolio to meet some of the highest power peaks of the year. On Wednesday and Thursday, temperatures in Chattanooga hit 100 degrees and TVA recorded its second and third highest power peaks ever for October.
TVA spokeswoman Malinda Hunter said TVA is targeting to get 3% of its generation from wind and solar sources by 2020. The utility's integrated resource plan for the next 20 years projects TVA could get as much as 14 gigawatts of additional solar generation by 2040, which would be more than 25 times the amount of solar generation now in the Valley.
Barney Danks, who built the $1.4 million Rossville solar farm in today's National Solar Tour in 2017, said he is eager to build more solar generation in the region for TVA after building a pair of 200-kilowatt solar arrays near Tracy City, Tennessee and Rocky Face, Georgia in 2012 and adding the Rossville facility five years later.
"These facilities are working great and I'd like to build even more," Danks said Friday. "But TVA seems to be less interested than it once was in these type of solar installations."
Danks had planned to build a 1 megawatt solar farm in Marion County, "but TVA canceled that project last year."
TVA purchases the power from the three Alicity solar farms under 20-year contracts, but Danks said the rates paid by TVA have not been as favorable as in the past. TVA says it can't afford to pay premium rates for solar above the cost of other generation without shifting such costs on to ratepayers.
TVA is granting its local power companies the right to generate up to 5% of its own power from renewable sources which could encourage some municipalities and power cooperatives to build solar generation to supply customers wanting renewable power. But TVA still buys and controls most electricity generation and distribution in its 7-state region.
"People want renewable energy and our costs are becoming more competitive all the time so I'm hoping to build more solar generation," Danks said.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 757-6340.