TVA’s Generation Partners increasing capacity

by Wally Northway

Published: March 11,2010

Tags: energy, renewable energy, TVA, utilities

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – With solar panels and wind turbines popping up across the region, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA’s) renewable energy program, Generation Partners, now has enough power to meet the annual electricity needs of a fairly large subdivision, according to the utility.

Fueled by TVA incentives and federal tax credits, participation in Generation Partners has tripled since last spring from 69 to 194 installations — 181 are solar and 13 are wind.

The combined generating capacity of the Generation Partners portfolio has grown from 454 kilowatts to more than 1.49 megawatts. While the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, the combined energy from today’s Generation Partners installations is expected to make enough electricity over a year to equal the annual consumption of more than 120 average Tennessee Valley households.

“Surpassing one megawatt is a milestone for this program,” said Susan Curtis, TVA senior manager of Generation Partners. “It shows a growing desire of many residents to take a personal stake in clean renewable energy for our region. TVA and its distributors want to help.”

Though a small contributor to TVA’s 33,000-megawatt system, the power from Generation Partners, a pilot program launched in 2003, comes with clean-air savings. The 547,877 kilowatt-hours Generation Partners produced in fiscal 2009 represents 497 metric tons in avoided carbon dioxide emissions from fossil power plants.

USFloors Inc. of Dalton, Ga., recently became Generation Partners’ largest participant with the installation of a 144-kilowatt system. It has 672 solar photovoltaic panels covering 14,500 square feet on a warehouse rooftop that can be seen from Interstate 75. Already, the sustainable flooring company is planning to modify a second existing solar array of 31.5 kilowatts to more than 300 kilowatts.

“There is no question that both TVA and North Georgia Electric Membership Corp. have been crucial elements in making this come to fruition,” USFloors president Piet Dossche said. “Without them this would have been less attractive.”

Generation Partners offers homeowners and businesses financial incentives for qualifying solar, wind, biomass and small hydroelectric systems of less than 1 megawatt. TVA pays each new participant $1,000 to offset startup costs and agrees to buy 100 percent of the green power they produce. TVA will pay the retail rate, plus any fuel cost adjustment, plus a 12-cent premium per kilowatt-hour for solar and 3 cents per kilowatt-hour for wind, biomass and hydro.

Federal renewable tax credits and the expanded Generation Partners pilot program are driving consumer interest in renewables, he said, noting North Georgia Electric Membership Corp. has two businesses and three homes now participating in Generation Partners and applications from four more.

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