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We’re investing and innovating in clean energy initiatives for the good of our environment, our economy and our communities.

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Tomorrow’s Grid:
The Next Great
Tech Innovation

Technology is key to the future of energy too.

TVA is modernizing our energy grid by investing over $2 billion in the next five years. Through drones and network upgrades such as remote monitoring, we’ll be able to spot problems and restore service faster, especially when extreme weather hits. With the added information, our employees can even anticipate problems before they occur.

We’re also partnering with local power companies, or LPCs, to find ways to ensure our grids work together as they own solar systems online through our Generation Flexibility program. It all helps to further our mission of providing clean, reliable, low-cost power across the Tennessee Valley.

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Utility-Scale Solar By 2035

Advanced Technologies

Distributed Energy Resource Integration provides flexible solutions, customer choice, and local control while creating more value for the Valley

Influencing distributed energy resource in locations that support the grid

Analyzing meter data to improve planning for TVA and our local power companies

High-Speed Fiber Blitz

Our Strategic Fiber Initiative is 2,700 miles of high-speed fiber across the Tennessee Valley in an effort to modernize our electric grid. This $300 million investment will improve transmission capability and security through the use of emerging technologies.

Engineering complete or in progress on 1,700 miles

Installed 800 miles of optical ground wire as of January 2021

Full program completion scheduled for fall 2027

High-Speed Fiber Blitz

2,700-mile TVA fiber blitz passes quarter-way mark in effort to modernize the electric grid.

NOVEMBER 20, 2020—TVA is stretching 2,700 miles of high-speed fiber across the Tennessee Valley in an effort to build a modernized electric grid. The $300-million investment is enhancing both transmission capability and security through the integration of emerging technologies.

The elaborate fiber network is positioning the Valley as a hub for large manufacturers and job producers whose operations hinge upon automation, robotic assembly and sustained power quality.

“We want to make every electron flowing through our transmission lines count,” said Aaron Melda, senior vice president, TVA Transmission & Power Supply. “This project is going to increase our remote switching capability. This new system will give us the ability to predict versus react, which will help us prevent transmission failures and load-not-served conditions. That’s an immediate cost benefit for our customers and stakeholders.”

In addition to maintaining system reliability and bolstering the region’s economic development potential, TVA’s fiber efforts are creating information superhighways that are now helping local power companies and third-party providers connect homes and businesses to high-speed internet.

According to Senior Program Manager for Strategic Fiber Shane Beasley, all new fiber-line paths are being re-analyzed to current National Electric Safety Code reliability and loading standards. Structural upgrades are being implemented where required.

“As a design team we made a conscious decision from the beginning to bring all impacted lines up to current design code,” Beasley said. “An effort of this magnitude needs to meet the most current engineering standards, and a side benefit to that is increased system reliability and a reduced maintenance burden in the future.”

To date, TVA linemen have strung more than 700 miles of new 144-strand fiber cable and have replaced a slew of wooden power poles with galvanized transmission structures. Comprised of 12 line crews and two helicopter teams, the agency’s linemen are capitalizing on the autumn window as temperatures continue to lower system demand and create favorable opportunities for planned work outages.

Regardless, the daunting task of hanging fiber-optic cable across the 80,000-square-mile service territory will not be complete until 2027 due to the sheer scope of the project. For reference, 2,700 miles is the equivalent distance between New York City and Las Vegas, Nevada.

“All our linemen have a hand in it, but it’s a joint effort,” said TVA Helicopter Line Foreman Andy Reagan. “We leave a little extra on the end of each pull and the telecom guys come in behind us and connect all the fibers in the splice cans. The big deal is getting our entire transmission system interconnected, but when we’re finished it’s gonna open up a lot of doors for these rural communities.”

Dark Fiber

COVID-19 exposed a clear communications crisis as public health precautions made telework and remote learning essential. America’s students, teachers and parents who are isolated in broadband deserts are part of a stark reality: only 20 percent of U.S. households have access to reliable high-speed internet, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

In March, the CARES Act — a $2-trillion coronavirus-relief package — added $100 million to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $700-million annual budget to connect rural communities to broadband. And the USDA’s telecommunications programs will soon expand by another $600 million. The addition will make everyday access to fiber a $1.3 billion federal priority.

As a federal agency, TVA has allowed interested LPCs and third-party providers to lease surplus capacity on its extensive fiber-optic network for more than 30 years. The TVA Dark Fiber program allows these entities to use a portion of TVA’s 4,100-mile infrastructure as private-information superhighways to connect rural regions to the digital world.

When all upgrades are complete, TVA fiber will blanket more than 6,200 miles across a seven-state service region.

“High-speed internet access is as critical in today’s world as electricity was in 1933. We’re not in the commercial broadband business, but we are here to make life better for the 10 million people we serve,” said Kristie Goodson, TVA’s Dark Fiber Specialist. “TVA is building an information interstate. If we don’t need the entire capacity and somebody needs a couple of fibers to connect point-A to point-B, we’re happy to work with them because we know it will benefit everyone between here and there.”

To effectively use fiber technology, two strands are required — one to transmit and another to receive. TVA’s 144-strand fiber-optic cable is about the diameter of a wedding band and can be paired into 72 superhighways for high-speed communications. These paths of information are what connect cities, towns and rural communities to the major metropolitan data hubs.

“It’s just like a county road,” Goodson said. “You can put all the fiber you want in a town, but it doesn’t go anywhere if you don’t have an interstate that can connect you to rest of the world. That’s what our Dark Fiber program has always been about — simply connecting people.”

TVA is currently serving 23 of its 153 LPC partners with dark fiber. Headquartered in Columbus, Mississippi, 4-County Electric Power Association is on the outermost band of the agency’s service territory. The LPC serves nine rural counties in the east-central region of the state, including Oktibbeha County and the area around the metropolitan of Starkville, which is the home of Mississippi State University.

4CEPA is using TVA fiber to cross a 600-foot span of river and connect an isolated community. “We’ve just come to a point in our lives where you really can’t survive without technology,” said 4CEPA CEO Brian Clark. “Using TVA’s fiber paths are going to help us bridge the gap to the areas of our membership that would have taken years to get to otherwise.”

Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative, an LPC that serves five counties in Middle Tennessee, contracted a TVA fiber line in 2014 to connect Cumberland City to West Nashville. Cumberland City is a rural town with a population of 307, a median household income of $22,143 and a 39.4 percent poverty rate, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The tiny municipality is the home of the Stewart-Houston Industrial Park.

“There are a lot of players in the fiber field that are helping us connect our customers to high-speed internet and TVA is one of those trusted partners,” said MLEC CEO Keith Carnahan. “TVA’s grid upgrades are creating new opportunities for LPCs. It gives us another option when we’re trying to get fiber paths to a particular point of service.”

Capability

The blitz to fiber optic technology is due to its superiority over traditional phone lines and microwave paths. TVA’s microwave systems are highly reliable but, unlike fiber optic technology, it has lower bandwidths. Additionally, TVA’s microwave paths can be interrupted by moisture in the atmosphere and by temperature.

Fiber, however, is more secure because it is embedded in aluminum casing that serves as a ground wire to protect the channel from lightning strikes and other induced forms of energy that could potentially cause communication outages.

According to Christine Bertani, a senior program manager for TVA Telecom Planning, a typical phone line can only transmit a single signal at about 64 kilobits-per-second. A microwave path is capable of 191 megabits-per-second. This means a microwave signal is equivalent to approximately 2,984 phone lines.

However, more than 11,250,000 phone lines are required to match the speed of a single pair of fiber.

Bertani says the big difference with fiber is that multiple wavelengths, or “channels”, can be transmitted across an individual strand at variable speeds. Typical industry rates are 10, 40, and 100 gigabits-per-second. Although manufacturers are continuously making advanced telecom-fiber equipment that can produce faster speeds, Bertani prefers to use the 10-Gbps rate when defining fiber’s potential.

Picture this: 144-strand fiber is capable of streaming 28,800 high-definition movies simultaneously.

“In the real world, the capacity of fiber cannot be defined by a definitive number because of many variable factors. It depends on your end equipment and the span between them because the signal gets weaker over distance,” Bertani said. “It’s also limited by the inherent characteristics of the fiber and how it is spliced together. Mathematically, fiber can pass high rates of traffic, but we manage capacity based on what the end equipment can handle as well as our customer requirements and priorities.”

Although it’s impossible to quantify how fast future technology will send bits buzzing around the world, the medium on which digital information will travel is certain. And that is why TVA is building tomorrow’s grid with fiber — to provide reliable connectivity throughout the Valley.

Innovation
From the Mouths
of Innovators

Leaders from the TVA, the industry and our local communities on energy, opportunity and the latest tech.

As an entrepreneur myself, I remember the people who helped me get where I am. I had so many great mentors who supported me early on, and I’m excited about the opportunity to pay it forward to future entrepreneurs.
We are advancing the industries of the future, driving innovative energy solutions that benefit the people of the Valley, the nation and the world.
A vision for what is possible must be paired with expertise to become reality. Our experience will help innovators grow and thrive.

The Brains of
the Operation
Just Got Brainier

Our new Systems Operation Center will make the cutting edge seem sharper than ever.

Opening in fall 2024 after a $300 million investment, TVA’s new Center will have the grid humming along at 99.999% reliability. The Center uses smart technologies to manage power grid operations more efficiently, including demand response that helps customers shift electricity usage to non-peak hours in return for incentives.

It’ll also be outfitted with the latest security systems to protect against everything from cyberattacks to electromagnetic pulses. It all adds up to more security, greater efficiency and lower-cost electricity. That’s win-win-win.

Energy Management System

Utilities everywhere are moving their operations centers from urban to rural areas for greater safety and security. Our Center’s new energy management system will also help lower costs, increase reliability and improve what we can see on the power grid.

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Learn more about our Systems Operation Center

The Systems Operations Center is not only a physical structure, but also a brain center Watch the Video >

To the Future,
With Nuclear

Cleaner and more reliable than ever, the nuclear option has never looked better.

Small Modular Reactors are a giant step forward from the large nuclear plants of yesteryear. Their smaller footprint means they can be built more quickly, operated more easily and they fit into our landscape more easily as well—all while offering enormous power capabilities. And because they’re below ground, they’re safer and more secure.

In 2019, we became the first utility in the nation to gain approval for an early site permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission—to construct and operate Small Modular Reactors at the Clinch River Nuclear site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Advanced nuclear energy will help us keep your lights on with all the good that comes from carbon-free energy generation. It’s safer, smaller, more reliable, more flexible and lower cost. To the future we go.

Advanced Nuclear Solutions

Our Vision: Create a reliable, affordable, flexible, and clean electricity generating option for the 2030's, and beyond.

TVA continues to evaluate emerging nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors, as part of technology innovation efforts aimed at developing the energy system of the future. While TVA actively works to extend the life of our existing reactors, we are also taking steps to be able to add next-generation nuclear power, such as advanced light water small modular reactors (SMRs) and advanced non-light water reactors, to the TVA portfolio. TVA's goal is to identify an economically viable advanced nuclear technology to generate carbon-free electricity in the 2030's and beyond.

An advanced nuclear reactor is defined as a nuclear fission reactor with significant improvements over the most recent generation of nuclear fission reactors. Such reactors include Light Water Reactor (LWR) designs, both pressurized and boiling water reactors, and non-LWR designs using various moderators, coolants, and types of fuel. Many of the LWR designs are considered to be small modular reactors (SMRs), which the are defined as reactors with electric generating capacity of 300 megawatts and below, in contrast to an average of about 1,000 megawatts for existing commercial reactors.

Advanced or unconventional reactor designs seek to use combinations of new and existing technologies and materials to improve upon earlier generations of nuclear reactors. Advanced reactor designs may be grouped into three primary categories

  • Advanced light water-cooled reactors, referred to as SMRs, provide evolutionary improvements to proven light water-based fission technologies through innovations such as simplified design, smaller size, or enhanced efficiency;
  • Advanced Non-light water-cooled reactors are fission reactors that use materials such as liquid metals (e.g., sodium and lead), gases (e.g., helium and carbon dioxide), or molten salts as coolants instead of water; and
  • Microreactors, are simply smaller, factory-built systems that can be easily transported by trucks, ships, airplanes or railcars. Some microreactors can be set up in days, not years, to provide reliable heat and power to a host of places, ranging from residential and remote areas to military bases

Advanced nuclear reactors may be characterized by a range of technological maturity. Advanced light water-cooled SMRs are considered to be among the most mature of the advanced reactor technologies. Advanced Non-LWR reactors are considered to be further from commercialization.

Advanced Nuclear Reactors

How TVA is Leading the Charge

TVA is evaluating advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular and micro reactors, as part of TVA’s technology innovation mission. Advanced Nuclear reactors offer clean energy technology that would play a key role in TVA’s continued mission of environmental stewardship while increasing capability for future energy demands.

Small Modular Reactors

Small modular reactors are advanced light water reactors with an electric generating capacity of up to 300 MW. SMR designs are based on existing commercial LWR technology but are generally small enough to allow major reactor components to be placed in a single pressure vessel, thereby eliminating the need for primary circuit pipework with the intention of enhancing safety and reliability. The reactor vessel and its components are designed to be assembled in a factory and transported to the plant site for installation, potentially reducing construction time and costs from those of large LWRs.

Potential SMR Advantages:

  • Improved safety and security
  • Reduced construction time
  • More standardization
  • Small footprint; more site options
  • Lower financing costs

High Temperature Gas Reactors

High temperature gas reactors (HTGRs), including very high temperature gas reactors (VHTRs), refer to graphite-moderated, typically helium-cooled systems that use tri-structural isotropic fuel micro particles. The particles are packed into a graphite matrix to form either spherical or cylindrical fuel elements. The pebble bed version of the HTGR uses spherical billiard ball-sized fuel elements that flow continuously through the reactor. The prismatic version of the HTGR uses the cylindrical fuel compacts in hexagonal blocks in a fixed geometry. HTGRs may be used for electricity production and/or process heat applications

Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs)

MSRs come in several varieties. Some designs use molten fluoride salt, while others use chloride salts as the coolant. Some designs have stationary fuel rods or plates, while others have moving fuel pebbles or fissile material dissolved within the flowing coolant. In addition, some MSRs use a fast neutron spectrum, while others use a thermal spectrum.

MSRs vary in their design; there are fast and thermal variants, and different moderator materials have been proposed for the thermal variants. Different molten salts may also be used, depending on the other design features.

Fluoride Salt-Cooled High Temperature (FHRs)

FHRs are a hybrid design that uses pebble fuel elements (like pebble bed HTGRs) and a fluoride salt coolant (like salt-cooled molten salt reactors). Some fixed-fuel FHR designs (like prismatic HTGRs) have been proposed, but none are currently under commercial consideration.

Liquid Metal-Cooled Reactor (LMRs)

LMRs are an advanced type of nuclear reactor in which the primary coolant is a liquid metal. LMRs are classified based on the liquid metal coolant used, such as sodium, lead-bismuth eutectic alloy, and lead-bismuth.

Heat Pipe Reactors

Heat pipe reactors typically consist of a solid block core with the fuel in holes inside the solid block. Heat pipes are built into the block in a lattice configuration and remove the heat from the block as the liquid in the heat pipe is vaporized.

Micro Reactors

Microreactor designs vary, but most would be able to produce 1-20 megawatts of thermal energy that could be used directly as heat or converted to electric power. Microreactors are not defined by their fuel form or coolant.

Clinch River Nuclear (CRN) Site

TVA's Site Selection process evaluated multiple sites in an effort to identify the most suitable site to deploy an Advanced Nuclear Reactor and found the CRN Site to be the preferred site. The CRN Site was originally the site of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor Project in the early 1980s. Extensive grading and excavation disturbed approximately 240 acres on the project site before the project was terminated. Upon termination of the project, the site was redressed and returned to an environmentally acceptable condition.

The CRN property is approximately 1200 acres of land located on the northern bank of the Clinch River arm of the Watts Bar Reservoir in Oak Ridge, Roane County, Tennessee. This property includes the CRN Site, which is approximately 935 acres, and the Grassy Creek Habitat Protection Area, which is approximately 265 acres and located north of the CRN Site. The property itself is owned by the Federal government and is managed by TVA in accordance with the Watts Bar Land Management Plan.

The Site has a number of significant advantages including two existing power lines that cross the site, easy access off of Highway 58, a brownfield site previously disturbed and characterized as a part of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor project. It is immediately adjacent to DOE’s Oak Ridge Reservation, has a skilled local work force, and easy access to the reservoir and major transportation routes.

In 2010, TVA began exploring advanced nuclear technologies and started its characterization of the site. In 2016, TVA submitted an application to the NRC for an Early Site Permit for one or more small modular reactors with a total combined generating capacity not to exceed 800 megawatts electric for the Site.

In December 2019, TVA became the first utility in the nation to successfully obtain approval for an early site permit from the NRC to potentially construct and operate small modular reactors at its CRN Site. In 2021, TVA initiated the development of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate the effects of a proposed advanced nuclear technology park at the CRN Site.The decision to potentially build small modular reactors is an ongoing discussion as part of the asset strategy for TVA’s future generation portfolio, and TVA will make the decision that’s best for the 10 million people we serve.

Investing in the Future of Nuclear: TVA Partnerships

TVA is committed to investing in the future of nuclear and is partnering with like-minded organizations to evaluate the economic feasibility of potentially operating light-water or non-light water fission reactors that build on the success of the current generation of reactors by leveraging the expertise and capabilities of local power companies, utilities, federally funded research and development centers and academic institutions. These partnerships are important steps in the early stages of evaluation as TVA considers the prospect of new nuclear

University of Tennessee at Knoxville

This partnership provides a unique opportunity to engage with students and prepare the nuclear workforce of the future.

“Established in 1957, our department is the oldest and one of the most prestigious in the country,” said UT Engineering Department Head Wes Hines. “This strategic partnership with TVA to build highly efficient advanced reactors will help us pave the way for a clean, reliable energy future.”

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is the flagship campus of the UT System and the state’s land-grant institution. UT’s unique partnership with the US Department of Energy and nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory addresses critical issues in energy, transportation, climate and the environment.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

The research performed at ORNL through DOE’s national programs has enabled multiple utilities to innovate and improve power generation through the development and use of new materials, processes and state-of-the-art technologies.

“We are combining our world-leading research capabilities and TVA’s operating expertise to accelerate the next generation of cost effective nuclear power,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said. “Nuclear has long been a key component of the U.S. energy portfolio, and growing demand for emission-free electricity requires that we innovate to ensure safe, affordable and efficient nuclear power for generations to come.”

The partnership will take advantage of ORNL’s scientific expertise and its unique facilities including the High Flux Isotope Reactor, Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility and Manufacturing Demonstration Facility. This new effort builds on decades of collaboration between TVA and ORNL, leveraging nuclear capabilities and assets from both organizations, including a 2016 effort using modeling tools developed at ORNL to predict the first six months of operations of TVA’s Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear power plant.

UT-Battelle LLC manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. The Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time

Go deeper on advanced nuclear

We have a chance to get new nuclear right in terms of project execution. Watch the Video >

Putting the Sun to Work
for Our Businesses

Solar isn’t just a “feel-good” energy source.

Solar attracts carbon-conscious companies like Facebook and Google to the Tennessee Valley. In fact, we’ve brought in nearly $2.7 billion solar investments to the Valley.

Our business-friendly approach led to TVA Green, a suite of solutions that helps all types of businesses and organizations (and residential customers) transition to renewables. This includes Green Invest, an award-winning model that matches business needs for cost-competitive renewable energy with new solar projects right here in the Valley.

So far, we’ve added over 2,000 megawatts of utility-scale solar that will create jobs and local investments in the region.

We plan to add 10,000 MW of solar by 2035. This includes 5,000 MW of solar by 2030 and we’re already halfway there, with 2,300 MW of committed solar coming online by 2023. With over 400 MW of operating solar, new solar projects with local power company partners, and providing nearly 1.5 million people access to community solar, the future’s looking sunnier than ever.

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Solar success stories: see who’s running on the sun.

Every drop of Jack Daniel's now will have a little Lynchburg sunshine in it. Watch the Video >
We are serving not just our company, we are serving society. Watch the Video >

Electrifying the
Highways and Byways

Plugging in is taking off.

We’re championing electric vehicles and working with a broad variety of partners to pave the way for well over 200,000 EVs in the Tennessee Valley by 2028. Auto manufacturers love our low industrial rates and high power reliability, helping make Tennessee #3 in the nation for EV manufacturing.

There’s lots to look forward to on this road, like $200M/year in consumer fuel savings and $120M/year reinvested in the local economy from local electricity purchased for fuel. All coming with dramatic reductions in carbon emissions—almost 1M metric tons of CO2 kept out of our atmosphere each year, which is the same as carbon sequestrated by one million acres of US forests!

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Charging toward the future.

Here’s our map to the future, literally. Partnering wit local power companies and state agencies, we’re developing the Fast Charge Network of fast-charging stations covering the interstates and major highways across our 7-state service area, from Mississippi to the Appalachian Mountains and back. As part of the Electric Highway Coalition, our Fast Charge Network will ultimately connect seamlessly to the major highway systems of 22 other states and the District of Columbia. The switch to EVs has never been even easier, so you can reduce your transportation costs while improving air quality for us all.

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Reaching net-zero carbon emissions is our unwavering goal.

We’re leading the industry with a 63% reduction since 2005 and we’re on target for 70% by 2030. We’re also investing in future technologies to bring us closer to that goal each year.

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