TVA fights solar cooperative proposal in western Tennessee

JACKSON, Tennessee (AP) – The Tennessee Valley Authority says a new solar power cooperative in western Tennessee is illegal, while supporters of the project accuse TVA of trying to maintain a monopoly.

The organizers of the Jackson Sustainability Cooperative are asking the Tennessee Public Utilities Commission to either grant a certificate to authorize the new power distribution system or to grant a waiver of regulations prohibiting independent power distribution in the territory of VAT service, reported the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

An exemption would help the co-op obtain financing and memberships from manufacturers. The company promises to provide clean, cheap power to supplement the electricity generated by TVA with a $ 67 million solar farm and battery storage facility.

The new cooperative plans to pursue up to 38 large industrial and commercial customers near the proposed solar park in Jackson. This would limit revenue paid to TVA and its local distributor, the Jackson Energy Authority.

TVA Chairman Jeff Lyash said the grid that supplies 153 local power companies has been essential in keeping prices affordable and reliable power. Allowing start-up energy providers to supply electricity to selected customers could weaken the TVA model, which is designed to serve all customers at all times in the region, Lyash said.

TVA, Jackson Energy Authority and the Tennessee Municipal Electric Membership Association all filed objections to the proposal.

Teresa Cobb, general counsel for the Jackson Energy Authority, said the proposal violates state law that designates electricity service in Jackson provided by the city utility, which has an agreement to purchase its electricity from VAT.

The authority is developing plans to add 25 megawatts of solar power generation and there are an additional 25 to 30 solar projects under development by customers, said Monte Cooper Sr., vice president of electrical distribution at the Jackson Energy Authority. This power would be distributed within the existing VAT system.

“TVA offers a wide range of solar programs for private entities, even for profit providers,” he said.

Michael Miner, a senior partner at SynEnergy Inc. in Hampton, Virginia, and COO of the Jackson Sustainability Cooperative, said projects like theirs that distribute directly to customers are needed to combat global warming and also help industry and jobs in Jackson. He said TVA and the Jackson Energy Authority did not want competition.

“When you encroach on their territory, even when you have a sustainable and renewable project, there is going to be obstruction,” Miner said. “Any competitor in their monopoly will dismay them. “

Southern Clean Energy Alliance executive director Stephen Smith agreed, calling TVA’s opposition to the project “devastating.”

Smith said the micro-grid and solar panel offered by the cooperative is an important part of the future of power generation in the United States as power moves away from the central production of large power plants in the United States. coal or nuclear and towards a distributed model with smaller renewable energy production and storage.

Last year, the UN chief called for “immediate, rapid and large-scale” reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to curb global warming and avert climate catastrophe.

The cooperative filed its first petition in May. On December 23, state regulators called on supporters and opponents of the new cooperative to try to come to an agreement on what the applicant must submit in support of the proposed development before the Public Utilities Commission. begins to hear the case.

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