The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia
Saturday, 21 October 2023 07:49

Tennessee, home to TVA, is one of the least energy-efficient states in the country

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TVA_wind_turbines_on_Buffalo_Mountain_in_East_Tennessee_4402546815.jpgTVA’s Buffalo Mountain Wind Farm in East Tennessee generates 27 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power over 2,000 homes. The 15 turbines have a capacity of 1.8 megawatts each. They are about 260 feet tall and their blades 135 feet long. The three original, smaller, turbines were decommissioned in 2009 and removed in 2021.  TVA

Tennessee ranks among the top one-third of states in total energy consumption.

Tennessee just earned a top spot on the “Least Energy-Efficient State” list.

A recent study by WalletHub determined which states lead the nation in energy efficiency. Tennessee ranked near the bottom of the list at No. 42.

The new report compared the conterminous 48 states to find out who was using the most and the least energy. The study excluded Alaska and Hawaii.

For some, this study is just another example of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s lack of response to the community and the environment. 

“For many years, TVA’s lack of efficiency investment perpetuated unnecessary energy waste, leading to significantly higher customer energy bills,” said Forest Bradley-Wright, Energy Efficiency Director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Despite achieving only modest efficiency levels previously, from 2017 through 2021 annual efficiency savings at TVA declined by 95% down to almost nothing, such that the national average for utility energy efficiency savings was 68 times higher. In 2021, residential customers in Tennessee consumed nearly 34% more electricity than the national average — making it once again the second highest state for residential electricity consumption in the country.”
“Following a congressional inquiry, and promises by the utility to do better, TVA recently announced plans to invest $1.5 billion in energy efficiency and demand response between now and 2027, starting what we hope will be a new and better chapter for energy efficiency in the Tennessee Valley,” said Bradley-Wright.

Tennessee consumes nearly four times more energy than it produces

Tennessee stretches almost 500 miles across from the state’s eastern border with Virginia and North Carolina to its western border at the Mississippi River. The eastern part of the state produces coal, natural gas and crude oil. It ranks among the top one-third of the state in total energy consumption, per US Energy Information.

TVA, the largest government-owned electricity provider in the nation, owns 92 percent of Tennessee’s electrical sources and serves not only Tennessee’s 95 counties but also parts of six other states. The facilities in Tennessee include 19 hydroelectric dams, 7 natural gas-fired power plants, 4 coal-fired power plants, 2 nuclear power plants, and 1 pumped-storage hydroelectric plant. The TVA also operates one wind farm and several small solar power facilities.

The largest power plant in Tennessee is the coal-fired Cumberland facility. TVA owns the power plant but plans to shut it down by 2028 and replace it with natural gas-fired generation for economic and environmental reasons.

“Tennessee helped usher in the nuclear age with the nation’s first nuclear fuel enrichment plant, built at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory near Knoxville as part of the World War II Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic bomb,” according to the National Park Service. “Today, Tennessee has two nuclear power generating sites, the Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant and the Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant, both located in southeastern Tennessee with two reactors each.”

Tennessee is the seventh-largest hydroelectric power producer in the nation

Renewable resources, mostly hydropower, supply about 14 per cent of Tennessee’s total in-state electricity. The state is the seventh-largest conventional hydroelectric power producer in the nation and the third-largest east of the Mississippi River. 

The TVA’s Raccoon Mountain pumped storage plant, which began operating in 1978, is the fourth-largest power plant and the largest hydroelectric facility in Tennessee.

Solar facilities contribute the second-largest share of renewable energy generation in Tennessee. Mostly solar panels installed on residential and business rooftops. Biomass in the form of wood, wood waste and landfill gas accounted for about 6 per cent of the state’s renewable net generation and nearly 1 percent of total generation in 2022. Tennessee’s biomass resources are also used as feedstock for the state’s three wood pellet manufacturing plants. Wood pellets are burned for electricity generation and for heating.

Although Tennessee does not have a renewable portfolio standard requiring a certain amount of its electricity come from renewable energy sources, the state was among the first in the Southeast to develop renewable generation beyond hydroelectric power. The region’s first major wind farm, located on Buffalo Mountain near Oliver Springs, began operating as a facility in 2000 and has expanded to 15 wind turbines. The state’s best wind resources are along the Appalachian Mountains in eastern Tennessee.

Some energy efficient recommendations

There are ways to save energy, like solar innovation. According to the Associated Press, within 15 years, solar power has the potential to supply up to 40% of the nation’s electricity.

There are also ways to help you save on your energy bill in the summer and winter months. In order to make homes more energy efficient, experts recommend using as much natural lighting as possible and turning off devices and electronics when not is use.

“If the weather permits, facilitate natural ventilation as much as possible,” said Sanjay Srinivasan, director of the Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering at Pennsylvania State University, according to the WalletHub report. “Be conscious about the devices around you that are absolutely needed. Power off or use energy-saving features in the devices that you do not frequently use.”

In order to determine how each state ranked, WalletHub compared 48 states across two dimensions — home energy efficiency and auto energy efficiency.

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Last modified on Friday, 27 October 2023 13:02
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