TVA Finds Wind Power Popular with Consumers
OLIVER SPRINGS, Tenn. -- A dense fog roiling with driving rain and nearly gale-force winds settles onto East Tennessee's Buffalo Mountain.
Gary H. Harris relishes this weather.
"This is a great day," he proclaims. `"People would say it's bad, but I love it."
The gusts, reaching 30 mph at times, turn 75-foot turbine blades atop towers 30 stories high, making a whoosh-whoosh-whoosh noise that is barely audible over the wind.
In a growing number of ways, the Tennessee Valley Authority is generating cleaner, renewable energy in its seven-state region, including Kentucky.
The Green Power Switch program, launched in 2000, is gaining popularity at a rate so unexpected, TVA already is looking to expand. Customers agree to pay somewhat higher prices to buy fixed amounts of power generated by renewable sources under the program.
"We've been pleasantly surprised," said Harris, Green Power's program manager.
For now, 12 distributors in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi are participating in the TVA program.
Because it is more costly to generate energy from renewable sources than from conventional sources such as coal, Green Power subscribers pay an extra $4 for each block of 150 kilowatt-hours they agree to buy. A 150-kilowatt block represents about 12 percent of an average household's monthly use.
Throughout the TVA region, Green Power subscribers have bought an average of 1.7 blocks, meaning they are spending $7 more each month. The Green Power program generates 5 megawatts of electricity -- a tiny fraction of the 29,000-megawatt capacity of the agency's system. Agency officials hope to increase Green Power production to 50 megawatts in the next 10 years.
TVA also is using solar power and methane gas from landfills and sewage lagoons to generate power. But the federal agency has been most successful with wind power. Since construction was completed in October 2000, the turbines on Buffalo Mountain have been generating 6 million kilowatt-hours each year -- enough to serve some 400 homes.
The high demand has prompted TVA to solicit proposals that include a plan to build a 20-megawatt wind "farm" in northeast Tennessee.
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