TVA to create electricity out of thin air

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com
OLIVER SPRINGS -- A new project which is now under way will allow the Tennessee Valley Authority to generate power out of thin air.
Work has begun on a project to build and operate a wind farm site in Anderson County as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority's Green Power Switch program.
The project will construct 15 huge windmills along a two-mile stretch on the crests of Buffalo and Patterson Mountains in Anderson County. Each of the windmill turbines, which stand approximately 360 feet tall, will generate 1.8 megawatts of electricity, and the entire operation would provide enough electricity to serve more than 15,000 homes, according to TVA officials.
TVA contracted with Chicago-based wind energy developer Invenergy Wind, LLC, to build and operate the new turbines and the TVA has signed power purchase agreement with the company. "Energy produced by the 27-MW (27 megawatt) project will be sold to the Tennessee Valley Authority under a 20-year power purchase agreement," states a press release from Invenergy about the project. "In turn, TVA will utilize the energy to supply its highly successful Green Power Switch program."
A spokesman for Invenergy stated that the new wind turbines would be in operation by the end of the year.
The new wind turbines will be located near three smaller windmills which are already part of the TVA system. "The increase in wind power generation on Buffalo Mountain is further evidence of TVA's commitment to being a leader in environmental stewardship by doing our part for cleaner air," said TVA Chairman Glenn McCullough Jr. "We are pleased to give the people of the Tennessee Valley the choice to buy electricity generated from renewable energy sources and make green power available to more residential, business and industrial customers."
The Green Power Switch program, which began in April of 2000, is geared toward finding and implementing new forms of pollution-free energy.
"Green Power Switch continues to grow thanks to the support of distributors of TVA power and the increasing number of residents and businesses choosing to buy electricity generated from renewable sources," said TVA Environmental Executive Kate Jackson. "This innovative program allows consumers to make a long-lasting contribution to help preserve and enhance the quality of life in the region."
According to the TVA, more than 7,000 residents and 350 businesses are currently purchasing green power in the TVA region. "Lowe's Home Improvement Centers is the largest commercial customer purchasing renewable energy and has committed to purchase Green Power Switch for all of its stores in the Valley," states information from the TVA on the program.
Wind turbines, when properly placed, can generate electric power anywhere the wind blows strong and steady, according to the TVA. Wind turbines use the momentum of moving air to turn large blades that are attached to the shaft of an electric generator.
"In a modern wind machine, a turbine and switchgear are mounted at the top of a tower casing called a nacelle, and blades are attached to the turbine. Generally, the higher the tower, the better the access to wind," states TVA information on the wind farm. "The turbines use moving air to produce power by transferring the wind's momentum to the rotor blades and localizing that energy in a single rotating shaft. The resulting power can be used in many ways; modern turbines convert it into electricity."
According to the TVA, the production of wind energy creates no air pollution and has minimal environmental impact.
The large wind turbines also operate quietly, according to the TVA. "At distances of more than 650 feet, the swishing sound of the rotor blades is usually masked completely by wind noise in the leaves of trees or shrubs," states the TVA. "The turbine sites will be distant enough from neighbors so that people won't hear any sound at all unless they're standing close to the towers."
The new windmills also will not interfere with radio or television signals. "In fact some turbines even double as communications towers -- for cellular phone transmitters, among other things," states the TVA. "The turbine blades are made not of metal but of glass-reinforced epoxy (a material similar to fiberglass), and the turbines are equipped with asynchronous (brushless) generators that don't create any electrical disturbance. For these reasons the turbines that will be used in the green power program will cause no electromagnetic interference and won't disrupt radio or television signals."