Tennessee Valley Authority Pushed on Alternative Energy

KNOXVILLE,Tenn. — The co-chairmen of the TVA Congressional Caucus want thenation’s largest public utility to consider a number of renewableenergy sources to meet growing pressures to produce cleaner energy.

Sen.Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., hosted a forumThursday with representatives from TVA, Oak Ridge National Laboratoryand renewable energy manufacturing companies to discuss the TennesseeValley Authority’s options.

The pair touted solarpanels, underwater river turbines and wood chip burning as promisingrenewable energy sources – just leave out the wind turbines.
Alexanderand Shuler claim wind turbines in the Tennessee Valley Authority’sseven-state region wouldn’t produce enough energy to make them usefuland would spoil the area’s natural beauty.

"Peoplecome to North Carolina for the mountains. If it gets to the point wherepeople cannot see those mountains, they will not show up," Shuler said.

Congressis considering legislation that would require utilities to produce 20percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021. By then,TVA hopes to get more than half of its total electricity from zero orlow carbon-emitting sources.

Earlier this month, theTVA board agreed to buy up to 2,000 megawatts of renewable and cleanenergy by 2011, with some of that power entering the grid as early asnext year.

The agency, which supplies some 8.7million consumers, now generates a small amount of renewable energy atits own solar sites, wind turbines and a methane recovery project at aMemphis wastewater treatment plant. It also buys wind power from 15privately owned turbines located on TVA’s Buffalo Mountain wind farm.

Panelistssaid the biomass – burning wood chips to produce energy – and thehydropower options are the most feasible options right now.

Aseries of underwater turbines in the fast-flowing Mississippi Rivercould produce half of the output of the Watts Bar Unit 1 nuclear plantin Spring City, and a plant burning wood chips could produce theequivalent of a 12th of a new nuclear plower unit.

Solarwould only be feasible if the cost of producing panels is reduced.Producing solar power costs four times more than using coal.

"Inthe meantime, TVA should push conservation, new nuclear power plantsand air pollution-control equipment for coal plants in order to haveboth clean air and enough low-cost electricity to keep our jobs, heatour homes and power our computers," Alexander said.

Alexanderand Shuler also stressed the importance of conserving energy byswitching to fluorescent light bulbs, making homes more efficient andswitching from fossil fuel-powered cars to hybrids and electric cars.

"Weatherstrips and new windows and insulation’s not sexy," Shuler said. "Byreplacing windows, putting in new insulation and weather-stripping inwe can lessen in the entire United States 300 coal burning plants andbe able to produce millions of jobs for people."