TVA has recently shut its door to an important project regarding renewable energy, that had the potential of producing 3,500 megawatts of clean energy to the Midwest.
Six years ago, the Tennessee Valley Authority signed a contract with Clean Line Energy Partners LLC to consider a long-term power supply arrangement along a 700-mile wind energy transmission line that the company proposed to build through Oklahoma and Arkansas. The high-voltage, direct-current transmission line would carry wind-generated electricity from western Oklahoma, southwest Kansas, and the Texas Panhandle to TVA, Arkansas and other eastern markets. The line, expected to be completed by 2020, would end in Memphis, and TVA could have had linked to it to use the wind-generated power for its own distribution across the seven-state TVA region.
Bill Johnson, president of TVA, announced that TVA would officially back out of the plan. Johnson claimed it didn't make economic sense because TVA already has enough power-generating capacity and, with nuclear power, already is on path to generate more than half of its power from carbon-free sources. He expressed that the unreliability of wind power would require TVA to build other backup power generators, including natural gas plants, that would offset the promised savings from the wind-generated power sources alone.
His claims, however, sound disingenuous, at best. If TVA has "enough power generating capacity," then the wind power would be treated much as TVA's current hydro plants are treated: When the rivers are high, TVA uses the cheap water power, and when the wind in the plains is high, TVA would use the wind power. Existing gas-fired plants that can be turned up and down — even off — as necessary would be both filler and mainstay.
"TVA killed what could have been one of the biggest and most important renewable energy projects in America," Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in Knoxville, told Times Free Press Business Editor Dave Flessner.
Sadly, a more likely scenario for the sudden wind change is politics: both the opposition to anything wind by Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander and the new coal-blinded, climate change-denying Trump administration. Alexander, who thinks wind towers are ugly, took to the floor of the U.S. Senate last year to denounce Clean Line's project as unnecessary since TVA doesn't foresee the need for more power in the foreseeable future.