Much of the energy that powers economic development, a high quality of life, and a low cost of living in the Tennessee Valley is derived from the earth’s natural resources. The use of fossil fuel energy sources like coal, however, can have detrimental environmental impacts.
To offer customers the option of purchasing electricity from more environmentally friendly “green power” energy sources—wind, solar power, and methane gas, for example—TVA launched Green Power Switch® in 2000. Although no source of energy is impact-free, renewable resources create less waste and pollution.
Due to the tremendous public response to the program, GPS added 53 additional power distributors during 2002–2003. In addition, the GPS solar sites were expanded from 12 to 15, with new sites opening at the City of Florence Water Treatment Facility in Florence, Alabama; the University of Mississippi Intramural Sports Complex; and Mississippi State University’s Landscape Architecture Building.
Obtaining qualified generation resources to meet customer demands for green power cost-effectively is an ongoing challenge. For example, Middle Point Landfill, projected to become an important methane gas generator for the GPS program, did not fulfill capacity expectations and experienced production setbacks. As a result of these delays, this landfill was removed from the GPS program. The co-firing of methane gas from the Memphis wastewater treatment facility with coal at TVA’s Allen Fossil Plant is a welcome addition to the GPS supply mix. Thanks to the co-firing at Allen, the plant can reduce the amount of coal it burns by more than 7,257 metric tons (8,000 tons) each year.
Finding suitable, available sites to generate cost-effective wind power has also proved challenging for TVA. An additional 27 megawatts of wind power was targeted for construction at the Buffalo Mountain site near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the only commercial wind energy site in the Southeast. However, a series of contractual and land easement issues arose, which contributed to project delays. TVA continues to evaluate its plans for additional wind turbines to ensure that cost-effective wind generation will remain available to participants in the GPS program. This will also make it possible for TVA to offer GPS to additional distributors Valley-wide.
A 2002 partnership between GPS and Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse, the world’s second-largest home improvement retailer, is helping promote awareness of the program in both the residential and commercial sectors. Lowe’s buys enough green power to equal 5 percent of its total electric usage in the Tennessee Valley. By signing on with Green Power Switch, Lowe’s also became the first home improvement retailer to join the Green Power Partnership, a voluntary Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program aimed at reducing the environmental impact of electricity generation.
While developing cleaner power helps prevent pollution by addressing the supply side, demand-side management reduces pollution by finding ways to use energy more efficiently, meaning less power has to be generated. Working with distributors of TVA power, TVA promotes the most efficient use of construction resources, energy efficiency, water conservation, and pollution prevention in new and remodeled homes and commercial buildings.
These sustainable building concepts are being incorporated at several sites throughout the Valley, including Uptown Memphis, the redevelopment of a 100-block area around St. Jude Hospital in Memphis. Schools are becoming more energy-efficient as well, thanks to a TVA-developed network of consultants, designers, and installers who implement energy-saving projects and conduct energy audits.