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TVA will pilot solar power on a coal ash site, a first in the United States

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) – the largest utility company in the United States – will launch a first-of-its-kind pilot program to determine whether closed coal ash storage sites can accommodate large-scale solar installations.

Solar on coal ash sites

Pending environmental reviews and regulatory approval, the $216 million pilot project would explore the repurposing of a capped 300-acre coal ash storage pit into a 100-megawatt (MW) solar farm at the plant. of Shawnee Fossils, about 10 miles northwest of Paducah, Kentucky.

The solar farm, which TVA officials say should be operational within two years, will connect to transmission infrastructure already in place at the 1,696-acre coal-fired plant.

According to News & Observer:

Officials say the model could eventually be used at other Tennessee Valley Authority closed coal ash sites with a combined capacity of 1,000 MW if they pursue this expansion.

TVA is a federally owned utility company that supplies electricity to commercial customers and local electricity distributors serving nearly 10 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding and derives virtually all of its revenue from the sale of electricity. It also manages nearly 300,000 acres of land that could potentially be harnessed to house solar power.

Electrek’s Grasp

TVA’s latest solar announcement is welcome. The company has less ambitious emissions reduction targets than the Biden administration’s goal for zero electricity by 2030. The TVA plan is “70% carbon reduction by 2030; develop a pathway to around 80% reduction by 2035; and…net-zero by 2050.”

The utility plans to add 10,000 MW of solar power by 2035, and it is also developing small-module nuclear reactors. It issued a 5,000 MW clean energy request for proposals in July.

But TVA is also considering switching two aging coal-fired power plants in Tennessee to natural gas, when it should instead use the sites to house renewables, as it plans to do with the Shawnee coal ash site. As a federally owned corporation, as we have already said, TVA can and must do better.

Read more: Watch TVA blow up its oldest coal plant (and they want to replace it with natural gas)

Photo: Shawnee Plant Fossil/TVA

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