TVA Unveils $3M in Pilot Projects to Advance Valley Connectivity and Carbon-Free Future
Knoxville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced an industry-leading initiative to partner with communities in portions of the seven-state region and help provide equitable access to technology, resulting in job creation and energy and environmental justice.
TVA’s Connected Communities will fund several proposed pilot projects that leverage cutting-edge technologies to address select challenges, including broadband access, environmental risk monitoring, digital literacy training and next-generation career options. Community-driven data will be used to identify the gaps and populations without equitable access.
The selected projects – chosen by local governments, power companies and community-based organizations – will share more than $3 million in grant funding from TVA in 2022 and 2023.
“We recognize that access to technology and other critical services is the foundation for success in the modern-day world. Our Connected Communities initiative will help close the equity gap in communities across our region, offering broad-ranging, innovative solutions that will continue to make life better for the people we serve,” said Joe Hoagland, vice president, Innovation & Research. “This announcement also marks another step to jointly prepare our communities, customers and systems as we progress toward a clean energy future.”
Alignment to clean energy plan
The Connected Communities initiative directly aligns to TVA’s Energy System of the Future and plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. By expanding access to technology, TVA is investing in job creation, preparing for a modern grid system to further support clean energy resources, and opening more opportunities to connect with the community.
In February, the TVA Board of Directors approved exploration of advanced nuclear technology as part of its development of innovative, cost-effective technologies to support its aspirational goal of a net-zero carbon energy future. Other technologies TVA is exploring include next-generation energy storage, carbon capture, new hydroelectric pumped storage, and hydrogen. TVA continues to expand its renewable energy portfolio, including the targeted addition of up to 10,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2035.
Hoagland said that the energy equation requires parallel paths: the production, transmission, and distribution of low- and no-emission energy across the region and ensuring local communities and customers are prepared.
“We want our local communities to be positioned to take full advantage of TVA’s Energy System of the Future,” he said. “During the past year, the Connected Communities team and community partners have been working to understand Valley challenges, align best practices and build a roadmap to tomorrow. The discussions identified three priority focus areas that will help ensure everyone we serve has the opportunity to benefit from innovative energy and data technologies.”
More than 40 organizations applied for funding during the initial call for pilot projects, with each selected project supporting at least one of the three focus areas of the TVA Connected Communities initiative:
- Equitable Access to Services: Services through broadband, modern technology and the knowledge and empowerment to use it.
- Economic Empowerment: Economic security and the ability to contribute to a modern, 21st Century economy to the best of their ability.
- Energy & Environmental Justice: A healthy environment and reliable, affordable and clean energy.
“We and representatives of more than 30 local, state and national organizations developed these focus areas to help all people we serve,” said Bonnie Latta, senior project lead of the Connected Communities initiative. “A committee of representatives from TVA and state and local community partner organizations evaluated each application before selecting the ones best suited to test proposed solutions.”
Pilot project details
The nine pilot projects currently under review by the TVA Connected Communities initiative are:
- Chattanooga, Tennessee. Connectivity and Health in Orchard Knob: A Smart Community Model for Equitable Access to Services for the 21st Century – Bringing together expanded public Wi-Fi, digital literacy training, digital resources, home weatherization and telehealth to residents of Orchard Knob, a neighborhood of Chattanooga.
- Cheatham County, Tennessee. Economic Solutions Through Solar Innovation – Constructing a solar pavilion at Sycamore High School to support the development of a solar energy Career and Tech Education program and introducing solar science to students.
- Columbus, Mississippi. ACTNow (Access, Connectivity, Tools) – Developing a digital literacy training program for Columbus Housing Authority residents that provides an opportunity for those who complete the training to earn a Wi-Fi hotspot and laptop of their own.
- Knoxville, Tennessee. Alerting Elders and Trusted Social Networks Living in Environmental Justice Communities About Indoor and Outdoor Risks to Their Health – Developing an environmental risk monitoring system to alert elders and their support networks of potentially hazardous environmental conditions.
- Knoxville, Tennessee. Building the Future of East Tennessee's Workforce: Creating Pathways for Early Learners to the Skills, Jobs, and Opportunities in Our Region – Producing a video series and educational materials to increase awareness of vocational and STEM careers, aimed at kindergarten through 8th grade students and airing on PBS of East Tennessee.
- Knoxville, Tennessee. Community Connections: Tech Upgrades at City of Knoxville Recreation Centers – Improving 15 community centers to provide residents access to high-technology study spaces, computers and improved Wi-Fi.
- Lynnville, Elton, and Minor Hill, Tennessee. Community Hotspots – Installing public Wi-Fi access points in communities’ downtown areas.
- Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The Power of Connectivity: Providing Wi-Fi Access and Education to New Affordable Housing Projects – Developing additional wireless infrastructure and basic digital literacy classes for residents as part of the ongoing renovation of several properties of the Murfreesboro Housing Authority.
- Water Valley, Mississippi. Base Camp Coding Academy Phase 2 – Expanding an existing software development training program to support non-traditional students.
TVA is working with these communities on the pilot projects they value, contributing 70 percent of the project’s total costs. The pilot teams are funding 30 percent. The pilot projects will be awarded funding after successful completion of required reviews and work on the projects is expected to begin this summer.
To learn more about TVA’s Connected Communities initiative, including resources and tools for communities to implement their own Connected Communities initiatives, please visit tva.com/connectedcommunities or email [email protected].
For more information about TVA and its 88-year mission of service to the Tennessee Valley, click here.