Front Porch Blog

Tenn. Tuesday: More Sun! More Wind! More Healthcare?

[Spoiler Alert] Yes, Yes, and Almost Certainly Not.

American clean energy advocates are celebrating the revelation that solar energy made up half of new generating capacity for the first quarter of this year. Tennessee is a recognized leader in our region, and we have been particularly active in advancing new solar for years. Already in 2013, TVA has put 7.5 MW of new solar up. Of course, they also capped the program at a ridiculously low level, meaning that solar installers will have to wait until 2014 to be a part of the program again (DOH!). In the meantime, wind advocates will have no problem highlighting the potential for thousands of homegrown jobs in wind energy in Tennessee.

But let’s just look at how we in Tennessee are doing compared to some of our neighbors when it comes to solar. Alabama, WE’RE CALLING YOU OUT!

  • Between 1990 and 2010, Tennessee created nearly 10 times more solar jobs than Alabama.
  • Tennessee has 142 solar companies compared to Alabama’s 22.
  • Tennessee has 3856 solar homes compared to less than 100 solar homes in Alabama.
  • Solar jobs per capita nationally: Tennessee is ranked 13th, while Alabama ranks 50th.
  • BOO-YA!!

    Alabama native Pat Byington has lamented Alabama’s failed leadership on solar development and all the jobs that come with it, saying:

    And the jobs will keep coming once [Tennessee] completes the “Tennessee solar supply chain,” which will include not only multinational manufacturers, but also local jobs for distributors, sales, system design, installation and maintenance of this new source of energy. These will be permanent, home-grown jobs.

    But, there’s some cool stuff in Alabama too.

    Recently, the state highlighted the need to protect a few of the oldest cave drawings in the Southeast. The painted bluffs located along the Tennessee River in Murray County, Ala., are a priceless collection of roughly 80 pictographs estimated at roughly 600 years old, making them some of the oldest in the southeastern United States.

    The Tennessee Valley Authority manages the site and its archaeologists are searching for ways to protect it … Although its exact age is unknown, a burned river cane torch discovered at the site was carbon dated to 1400 A.D., which archaeologists believe to have been left at the site during the period when the drawings were made.

    The management of cliff paintings highlights the phenomenal services that TVA carries out throughout the region. But, frequent TVA critic Greg Johnson, is challenging TVA’s reputation as a “low-cost energy producer” alleging:

    TVA is not a low-cost producer. As I noted in April, TVA charges residential customers more for electricity than for-profit Duke Energy charges in North and South Carolina. Appalachian Power residential customers in Virginia and a tiny sliver of northeast Tennessee pay less per kilowatt-hour than Knoxvillians, Nashvillians, Chattanoogans and Memphians. TVA’s industrial customers are getting hosed. Knoxville Utilities Board, supplied by TVA, charges industry 18 percent more than for-profit Georgia Power, 29 percent more than for-profit Alabama Power, 46 percent more than Duke in North Carolina and 62 percent more than Duke in South Carolina.

    As we covered last week, TVA is losing their largest industrial customer in the United States Enrichment Corporation. Our friends at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy have some great coverage on how this loss could put the future of the nine boiler, 1200 MW Shawnee coal plant in serious doubt. Shawnee consumes about 9,600 tons of coal every day, and TVA has sunk more than $5 billion into trying to clean up the dinosaur coal plant where construction began more than 60 years ago.

    We’ve had so much rain this year that TVA had to severely limit water flow for the Riverbend Festival, while festival organizers had to severely limit Cee Lo Green after a flood of vulgar language swept over the family festival, leaving the popular singer banned from Riverbend for life.

    Unfortunately, across the state, our elected leaders have much deeper problems to deal with than being surprised that a performer whose most famous song was not originally titled “Forget You” uses swear words. For what seems like about the twelfth time this year, Tennessee leaders have been lacerated by the late night comedians on either the Daily Show or Colbert Report, this time for our “Healthcare Lottery” and refusal to expand Medicaid.

    Basic access to health care is a big problem for Tennesseans. In the Gallup Well-Being Index for 2012, Tennessee fell six places to be ranked 47 of 50 ( two places behind Alabama).

    We can celebrate that the optimism of Americans living in cities continues to rise, and that it is highest in the South. Still, our more rural districts continue to struggle in some very basic ways. For instance, the rural Cumberland Plateau-based congressional district TN-04 ranks 434 out of 436 congressional districts nationwide in general well-being. The urban TN-05, centered around Nashville, was the highest in Tennessee, ranking 108th. My colleague Melanie Foley did some great in-depth coverage of these numbers here.

    For what it’s worth, if you are reading this from a rural location in Tennessee and have questions about your health access, you can visit thestate’s Department of Rural Health, read about how the Affordable Care Act impacts you, or visit the Rural Health Association of Tennessee.

    Lastly, to end on a positive note, you can now pay your parking meters with your smartphone in downtown Chattanooga, because Chattanooga is fantastic.

    Infographic of the Day:

    Song of the Day:
    From a fantastic local guitar player named William Tyler, here is “Missionary Ridge.”





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    1. jw on June 19, 2013 at 9:57 am

      Thanks Bryan. Do you have any idea what the usual conversion rate of these contracts is?

      I suppose that the 180 days from signing will run us well into Fall for most of those folks. I wonder if that is something we could ask the board about at their November meeting in Oxford? You’d hope that they would at least use any un-installed capacity to increase the cap for 2014.

    2. Bryan on June 19, 2013 at 9:30 am

      TVA put a cap on solar of 7.5 Megawatts, this does not mean that 7.5 Megawatts was installed. Some of the contracts that were signed to put in solar were never acted upon. This uninstalled capacity is sitting there and has not been installed. TVA should not get credit for installations that have not and may never be installed. The contracts expire 180 days from the day they was signed, if it is not installed then it is not approved and will not be installed. TVA as far as i know has not put a plan in place to re-release this uninstalled capacity that they are being given credit for.

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