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Knoxville’s Sun Sphere

This mid-size Southeastern city—home to TVA headquarters—is #1 in the southeast for solar investment thanks to Knoxville Utilities Board and TVA’s Green Invest program.

It’s all blue skies and sunshine in Knoxville, Tennessee. That’s a good thing, as Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) is partnering with TVA to undertake a massive renewable energy commitment that makes Knoxville the number one city in the southeast for solar investment.

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon has the sunny smile to match this good news. “Renewable electricity is the backbone of fighting climate change,” she says, pointing to the many benefits: clean air and water, no fuel costs and economic development opportunities. “It makes us more sustainable and gives us the energy we need to power our lives and economy, but in a way that’s better for the planet.”

She recently announced KUB’s investment and collaboration with TVA to bring 502 MW of solar energy online to support the city through TVA’s award-winning Green Invest program, which matches renewable energy demand from a variety of organizations to new Valley-based solar installations through a unique public-private partnership.

For Gabriel Bolas, KUB President and CEO, going green this way is par for the course. “KUB has always been an environmental stewardship company,” he says. “We’ve worked to make sure that we are environmentally responsible, and that our customers have access to tools and programs that help them to improve their own environmental footprint.”

“It’s really what our community wants,” he continues. “As customers request more renewable energy, it only makes sense that we do things like this to meet their needs. Investing in utility-scale solar brings renewable energy benefits to everyone on our system, not just those who can afford to install their own systems.”

According to Bolas, this Green Invest commitment will not only help KUB meet its own sustainability goals, but also the City of Knoxville’s goal to reach 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. “It’s a very exciting time for solar in the Valley. We need to continue to find ways to support the growth of solar.”

“TVA’s Green Invest is the perfect fit for us,” says Mike Bolin, Vice President of Utility Advancement for KUB. “TVA procures new solar projects through a competitive bid process,” he explains. “The resulting solar projects are located on their system and provide KUB with the renewable attributes associated with that solar for use here in our community. We’ve signed two agreements with TVA. The first one for 212 MW and a second for 290 MW—for a total of 502 MW. When all projects are online in 2024, our customers will have 20 percent of their total electricity coming from solar, and that is a fantastic thing.”

Bolin notes that this arrangement gives Knoxville a strategic edge in economic development. The investment in Green Invest will enable KUB to be competitive in offering competitive solutions to the increasing number of companies with renewable energy requirements and attracting new business and industrial customers looking to establish new operations in the region.

“As more and more local power companies see the success of KUB’s Green Invest commitments, I expect they will see the potential benefits for their communities, too,” says Robbie Ansary, Customer Relations Manager for TVA’s East Region that includes Knoxville. “A lot of people are worried about climate change and global warming,” he says. “When an organization opts into Green Invest, they don’t have to worry about many of the challenges related to solar development – finding land, installation or maintenance—TVA partners with solar developers to take care of those things.”

All this makes Mayor Kincannon happy. “I’m thrilled that we’ll be able to tap into solar energy more and more,” she says. “It will make a big difference here in Knoxville. It’s going to make us greener as a community and it’s good news for our economy, our country and our planet—now and for generations to come.”

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