by Scott Robertson
Sometime in July, you’ll start seeing stories in the local media about the economic contributions of recreational fishing in northeast Tennessee. They will be very real business stories with ties to tourism, the environment and the quality of life in the region. They will also be promoted by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The TVA is making what appears to be a charm initiative this summer. With the years-long Boone Dam project wrapping up, the TVA is sending everyone but Owen Wilson into the field in northeast Tennessee to highlight to the public TVA’s positive economic impact and many community partnerships.
In the last several weeks, TVA representatives have appeared at public events across the region to publicly thank partners including BrightRidge, Silicon Ranch (through BrightRidge), Bristol Tennessee Essential Services and East Tennessee State University (through BrightRidge and Seven States Power Corporation).
The Martin Solar Farm
On June 8, BrightRidge, Silicon Ranch, and the TVA held a ceremony to break ground on a new solar farm under construction in western Washington County, Tenn. The 9-megawatt facility will be named the Martin Solar Farm in honor of the late Ralph Martin, who served for many years as director of the then-Johnson City Power Board.
The project would not have been possible had BrightRidge not enrolled in TVA’s Generation Flexibility Program. That program locks local power companies (LPCs) into 20-year contracts with TVA while allowing them to reduce the amount of energy they buy from TVA by generating up to 5 percent of their average energy needs. LPCs then put the locally generated energy on their distribution system for customers’ use.
Amy Edge, who was previously eastern district manager is now TVA general manager of customer delivery. She told the crowd gathered at the farm, “TVA is really charting the course to a cleaner energy future. We have a path to 80 percent carbon reduction by 2035 by adding up to 10,000 megawatts of solar capacity and we aspire to be net-zero by 2050. A big part of that is this generation flexibility.
“The fact that BrightRidge is the first of our local power companies to break ground is not surprising to any of us that know the visionary leadership and innovative touch the BrightRidge leadership team has,” Edge continued. “We are thrilled to partner with BrightRidge and this is the first of many successes to come. BrightRidge is always at the forefront of all we do at TVA, not only for this community, but for the valley in totality because of the innovative outlook they have. It’s really been delightful to watch. I cannot thank them enough for bringing more renewable energy to the valley.”
BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes returned the compliment, thanking TVA for its partnership. “These partnerships provide our customers with an efficient way to access clean energy benefits at scale while avoiding the long-term costs of individually owned and operated facilities. At the same time, we know access to clean energy is a key long-term driver of economic opportunity in our region.”
EV charging at ETSU
Chris Quillen, TVA customer service manager, did not speak from the podium, but stood for photographs with representatives of East Tennessee State University, BrightRidge and Seven States Power Corporation as eight Level 2 Clipper Creek EV charging stations were unveiled June 17 on the ETSU campus in Johnson City.
The project marked the 100th installation by Seven States Power Corporation in the Tennessee Valley. The stations are funded through student fees and powered by BrightRidge, which is providing the electric fuel.
Said ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland. “The presence of these charging stations on campus will help reduce any barriers to EV adoption and will also promote sustainable transportation in the Appalachian Highlands.”
“BrightRidge is honored to support East Tennessee State University in its effort to ease the region’s evolution from fossil-fueled to electric-powered personal transportation,” Dykes added.
$40M new substation with BTES
Edge, whose territory includes Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia as well as Tennessee, was back in front of the microphone as Bristol Tennessee Essential Services and TVA broke ground for a new $40 million delivery point substation off Highway 394 on June 25.
“Economic development and reliability are key focus areas for both BTES and TVA,” Edge said. “This delivery point project will provide much-needed additional capacity to serve the area along with reliability improvements for existing customers.
“So, this new south Bristol station will provide a third highly-reliable source of TVA power to BTES’ extensive sub-transmission system. The two existing delivery points are both nearing their capacity. As you can imagine, that can limit opportunity for economic development and can impact reliability over the longer term.
“So, this new delivery point will provide additional transformer capacity, resulting in BTES’ ability to better balance customer loads from three delivery points instead of two. This will result in a more reliable power supply and faster service restoration times, so a bit of a win-win for everyone involved on both the economic development front and the reliability front.”
BTES CEO Dr. Mike Browder explained, “We plan for projects many years in advance, and this is one of those projects. Our employees determined that additional power supply facilities will be necessary in the very near future to maintain the availability, reliability, and resiliency of electric power for the customers in our service area. We researched the growth of our service area and worked closely with the Tennessee Valley Authority to determine the best location for this delivery point substation.”
“Successfully executing on a project of this magnitude requires extensive collaboration between partners,” Edge added. After praising the BTES team, Edge played a bit more to the crowd, telling them BTES was their favorite LPC to work with, then adding, “but don’t tell anybody else I said so.”