TVA ranked in top 10 nationally in renewable energy sales

July 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

TVA will spend about $25 million this year buying solar energy as part of its renewable energy program. (TVA photo) 

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – The Tennessee Valley Authority announced today it was ranked in the top 10 nationally for renewable energy sales among U.S. utilities in 2013.

It marks the first time since 2003 that TVA has made the list. The utility cited customer support for its Green Power Switch program as a key reason for the sales performance listed ninth in the U.S. Department of Energy rankings.

TVA was the only utility in the southeast to make the top 10. 

Green Power Switch, which began in 2000, gives utility customers the option of buying a small amount of green power as part of their monthly bill. That money is then used by TVA to buy power from renewable sources – like solar and wind – in the Tennessee Valley.

The program has grown, but only a small fraction of TVA’s overall customer base has signed up. 

TVA said it has 12,600 Green Power Switch residential or business customers. The utility serves about 4 million households in all or part of seven states.

There are nearly 1,100 residential and 14 business Green Power Switch customers in Alabama. Those figures include 939 Huntsville Utilities customers, TVA said today.

The program offers customers a chance to buy defined percentages of their estimated monthly electricity use from green sources, on top of their current rates.  A given home’s participation doesn’t mean green power goes directly to that customer, but rather to TVA’s overall system.

TVA offers six options, in blocks of 150 kilowatt hours – about one-tenth of a monthly power bill – for green power purchases, starting a $4 a month for 12 percent green power, up to $32 a month for 100 percent green power support.

TVA spokesman Duncan Mansfield said solar power is the most common source for renewable energy purchased by the utility in the Tennessee Valley.

He said there nearly 2,000 solar photovoltaic installations in the valley and TVA has approved 340 more that are “on the way.” TVA will buy the power and offers incentive programs to encourage solar installations in homes and small businesses.

“There is a great deal of activity on the side of (renewable  power) generators,” Mansfield said. “People want to sell their electricity.”

TVA also has a program encouraging solar farms, that provided incentives for generation of up to 20 megawatts. The size of the program was increased this year, Mansfield said, and incentives for solar farms up to 100 megawatts are available.

He said that program has four installations with 11 more applications currently.

Mansfield said TVA will spend about $25 million this year to buy solar energy through the programs.

TVA spends just over $460 million on renewable energy annually, Mansfield said, with much of that spending going to wind farm power purchases from providers in the Midwest, from states like Illinois and Kansas.

TVA didn’t find enough consistent wind available in the valley to expand aggressively into wind farms. The Midwest has proven to be a better region for that power, he said.

Those purchases don’t relate to the Green Power Switch program, but there are wind farms in the Tennessee Valley, with the largest site near Oak Ridge, Tenn. at Buffalo Mountain. TVA developed the site with three turbines, but it has expanded. Invenergy, which installed and runs the turbines, has installed 15 more turbines.TVA buys the power from the company.

TVA is also working with a company called Strata Solar in the development of two joined wind farms in western Tennessee, Mansfield said.

 The utility is currently working on its integrated resource plan — its guideline for how it will generate power for the next years — and Mansfield said the TVA board is expected to vote on the plan next fall. 

 There will be public forums and other opportunities for public comment on the plan in the coming months, he said. 

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