SACE in the News: The choice between clean energy and fossil fuels

Hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving with lots of family, friends and food. Many things to give thanks for today, including for me, that we may be on the verge of a significant investment in renewable energy that will benefit the Southeast.

A recent article in the Tennessean titled “TVA may pipe in wind power” gives a glimpse of what a clean energy future will look like. A Houston-based company, Clean Line Energy Partners, and TVA have entered into talks about delivering wind energy from Oklahoma to the Tennessee Valley. According to the article, “The document signed by Clean Line and TVA last month says the first of two proposed lines would deliver up to 3,500 megawatts of power to the TVA system beginning in late 2016.” That amount of energy is equivalent to what is produced by three nuclear reactors. SACE’s executive director Stephen Smith was interviewed for the article and speaks to the significance of this development:

“The amount of wind that can be generated in the plains is staggering,” said Stephen Smith, SACE executive director. “This brings very low cost wind into the Tennessee Valley, with reliability way up. From our perspective, it’s one of the most exciting renewable developments that TVA is contemplating.”

Clean Line expects that the wind energy produced in Oklahoma will cost less than than nuclear power and be competitive with the cost of electricity produced with natural gas. Clean Line would build a dedicated direct current (DC) line, which would have less energy used during transport (known as “line-loss”) than an alternating current (AC) line, in order to deliver the wind energy produced in Oklahoma all the way to Tennessee.

As billion dollar investments in clean energy projects become more common, we can see the road map for how energy production will be changed during the next 10 to 20 years. As an article in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, “TVA trial raises questions of culture,” highlights the importance of  moving away from dirty energy sources, for financial, health and safety reasons. As TVA stands trial over the disastrous Kingston coal ash spill that took place in December 2008, we learn that TVA thinks the cleanup will continue through 2014 with a price tag of $1.2 billion. As it has become cliché to say, the next time a solar panel spill ruins the environment for decades, will be the first time.

SACE’s executive director Stephen Smith is also quoted in this article:

Smith believes the ash spill did spur some positive developments within TVA. He believes the ash spill influenced some of the decisions made in the Integrated Resource Plan and prompted TVA to be more transparent with that process. “I think Tom Kilgore’s approach to coal was dramatically impacted by Kingston,” Smith said. “It led to Kilgore being more assertive and aggressive in retiring coal plants.” he said.

The article details that when things go wrong at nuclear or coal plants the results can be devastating for people and the environmental as well as very expensive from a financial perspective. Now surely, wind turbines and solar panels are susceptible to extreme weather events and could need repair or replacement in the wake of fires, floods or earthquakes, but apparently tornadoes and wind farms can happily co-exist. Yet another reason to switch to safe, reliable and renewable sources of energy.

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