The Tennessee Valley Authority Cuts Coal, Adds Solar Generation

by | Mar 21, 2019

The Tennessee Valley Authority Cuts Coal, Adds Solar Generation

(Photo: The TVA Cumberland Fossil Plant in Tennessee. Credit: Brent Moore, Flickr Creative Commons)

The Tennessee Valley Authority will add more solar capacity while cutting back on coal-fired power generation over the next two decades under a new plan presented this week at a public hearing, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

According to the latest 237-page draft of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Integrated Resource Plan, solar, backed up by gas and storage or storage alone, would be more optimal than adding wind and hydro resources across the federal utility’s portfolio.

“Solar is becoming less expensive and a least cost option in the future so we do see a build out in solar capacity in all different scenarios,” Hunter Hydas, a project manager for TVA’s Integrated Resource Plan, said at a hearing in Chattanooga Wednesday night, according to the Times Free Press.

In FY 2018, TVA’s electricity mix was 39% nuclear, 26% natural gas, 21% coal-fired, 10% hydro, and 3% wind and solar, the plan said. The rest came from energy efficiency efforts. Over the next 20 years, TVA could boost electricity from the sun anywhere from 4 to 9 gigawatts, Dave Flessner reported.

“Solar is expected to gain favor from businesses interested in using more renewable power,” he wrote.

At the same time, TVA is shifting away from coal. The utility has already fully retired the Allen, Colbert, John Sevier, Johnsonville, and Widows Creek plants. Several units of the Paradise and Shawnee plants have also been retired. Drafted coal fleet portfolio plans call for evaluating Bull Run and Paradise Unit 3. In 2034, TVA anticipates retiring Shawnee Units 2, 3, and 5–9.

Three coal-fired plants will continue to operate: Cumberland, Gallatin, and Kingston.

“Uncertainty around future environmental standards for carbon dioxide emissions, along with the outlook for loads and gas prices, are key considerations when evaluating potential coal retirements,” the plan says. “Emissions of air pollutants, the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions, and generation of coal waste decrease under all strategies.”

The Tennessee Valley Authority will continue to collect feedback on the plan until April 8. After that, the input will get incorporated into a final version that goes to the TVA Board of Directors for approval.

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