TVA seeks comment on enviro review for 80-MW solar project in Alabama

The Tennessee Valley Authority said Aug. 12 that it is seeking public input until Sept. 14 on its draft Environmental Assessment covering a proposed power purchase agreement (PPA) with the 80-MW (ac) River Bend solar project planned for Lauderdale County, Ala.

TVA has tentatively approved an agreement to purchase the electricity generated by this NextEra Energy Resources project for up to 20 years, pending the outcome of the assessment. The solar project, currently scheduled for completion in late 2016, would occupy about 645 acres located five miles west-northwest of Florence, Ala. The facility would tie into an existing adjacent TVA transmission line.

The proposed facility would be constructed and operated by River Bend Solar LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, which is an independent power subsidiary of Florida-based NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE). The facility would consist of multiple parallel rows of photovoltaic (PV) panels on single-axis tracking structures, direct current (DC) to AC inverters, and transformers. The facility would be connected to TVA’s existing Colbert Fossil Plant-Selmer 161-kV transmission line adjacent to the project area.

In 2011, TVA completed an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and associated Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The IRP identifies the resources that TVA uses to meet the energy needs of the TVA region over the 20-year planning period while meeting TVA’s vision to become one of the nation’s leading providers of low-cost and cleaner energy by 2020. Cost-effective renewable energy, including energy generated by solar PV, is one of the energy resources recommended in the IRP. Since 2011, TVA has undertaken several efforts to expand the contribution of renewable energy in its generation portfolio. In July, TVA issued an updated final IRP and associated final supplemental EIS. The proposed PPA with River Bend Solar is consistent with the alternative strategies evaluated and the recommendation in the final 2015 IRP.

TVA would construct an interconnection switching station within the 645-acre project area and also construct a short (less than 1,000 feet) transmission line between the existing line and the switching station.

Under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), TVA considers the Proposed Action under the draft EA to consist of both the purchase of renewable energy under the PPA, and the construction and operation of the proposed project. Because execution of the PPA is a contractual rather than physical action, the scope of environmental consequences evaluated in this EA for the Proposed Action focuses on impacts related to the construction and operation of the project.

This project would convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electrical energy within polycrystalline PV modules. The PV modules are each capable of producing approximately 325 watts, and would be mounted together in arrays. These arrays would be grouped into individual blocks with an output of approximately 3.8 MW (ac). Each block would consist of PV modules configured into arrays and a power conversion station (PCS) that includes inverters and transformers to convert the DC electricity generated by the solar panels into AC electricity for transmission across the project’s electrical collection system and to the on-site substation.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.