Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) may not be an expert on state attractions like Dollywood and the Grand Ole Opry, but it is an authority on power generation. A US government-owned corporation, TVA is the largest public power producer in the country. It sells wholesale electricity to more than 150 municipal and cooperative power distributors, which serve some 9 million people in Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Virginia. It also sells power directly to large industries and federal agencies. In addition, TVA provides flood control and land management for the Tennessee River system, and it assists utilities and state and local governments with economic development.
TVA was established by Congress in 1993 primarily to reduce flood damage, improve navigation on the Tennessee River, and promote agricultural and industrial development in the region. In 1999 government appropriations for the authority ceased. TVA has since funded its activities from the sale of electricity and the sale of bonds in financial markets. It receives no taxpayer money and makes no profits. In 2010 energy demand was up due to a record hot summer and cold winter. TVA earned about $10.9 billion in revenue for the year, and net income from energy sales were reinvested into system improvements and economic development initiatives.
TVA provide electric power through a network of about 16,000 miles of transmission line. Most of its power comes from traditional generation sources. Its facilities include fossil fuel-powered, hydroelectric, nuclear, combustion turbine, and combined-cycle plants. TVA has an agreement to produce tritium, a radioactive gas that boosts the power of nuclear weapons, for the US Department of Energy at its Watts Bar nuclear plant. The company plans to add three more nuclear plants by 2020 and is working with the DOE to reprocess waste from its existing plants. In 2009 more than half of its generating capacity came from coal-fired generators, with roughly a third coming from nuclear plants.
More recently, it has been expanding its renewable energy portfolio, with more than a dozen solar energy sites and and one wind energy site. TVA is working toward obtaining 50% of its power supply from low- or zero-carbon-emitting or renewable sources by 2020. It also announced plans to replace its older and less efficient coal units with cleaner sources of power.
Still, TVA faces various environmental issues. In 2008 a holding pond at TVA's coal-burning Kingston Fossil Plant failed and dumped some 5.4 million cu. yd. of fly ash over 400 acres in eastern Tennessee's Roane County. The slide knocked down utility poles and trees, and damaged at least a dozen homes (some beyond repair). Although no one was hurt, some residents were cut off by the spill, prompting officials to build a new road. The flooding was the pond's third reported incident in six years. The cleanup will likely cost more than $1 billion and be completed by 2013. Some 14 lawsuits are pending against the TVA as a result of the incident. – less