Tuesday, April 27, 2010

TVA takes another look, buys more wind power

The South has been slow in adopting renewable energy sources for a variety of reasons, including its geography, but that may be changing. The Tennessee Valley Authority hasn't expanded its investment in wind power since 2004, but recently has "signed contracts to buy 1,380 megawatts of wind-generated power from providers outside the Tennessee Valley," Larissa Brass of the Knoxville News-Sentinel reports. New research suggesting that taller turbines might unlock wind power in regions thought ill-suited for the energy source has led TVA to look again at wind.

TVA chose its out-of-state wind projects over biomass and solar projects because it was the most economic option, Brass reports. Without new technology to tap wind in the South, the region will have to depend on transmission from the Midwest to meet its renewable energy goals. "For the Eastern Interconnection, both in terms of geography as well as population, it doesn't really have a wind resource," said Bob Zavadil, executive vice president of power systems and co-founder of Knoxville-based electric power engineering firm EnerNex Corp. "If we're going to reach the 20 percent target, you've got to have a lot of wind in the Great Plains, no matter what - that's even with offshore wind, which is reasonably speculative at this point."

Transmission from the Midwest to areas with no wind generation is no sure thing. The current transmission infrastructure can only support wind power for 6 percent of the nation's energy demand, Brass reports. Permitting issues for new transmission lines also face local, state and federal approval. "There is an impact," Brandon Blevins, wind program coordinator for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, told Brass. "If the attitude is, let's bring this all from the outside, then you lose that economic impact in the state." (Read more)

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