TVA seeks public input on Elora Solar Project by Jan. 3

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is seeking public input on the potential environmental impacts of a 150-MW solar project in Lincoln County, Tennessee, by Jan. 3. The power provider has entered into an agreement with Elora Solar, LLC to purchase power generated by the proposed solar facility.

The Elora Solar Energy Center would be constructed, operated, and maintained by Elora Solar, LLC on approximately 1,700 acres in the county. According to the draft environmental assessment, there are two alternatives:

  • No Action Alternative: TVA would not purchase the power generated by the project under the 20-year agreement with Elora Solar and would not be involved with the project. 
  • Action Alternative: Elora would acquire land to construct, operate, and maintain a single-axis tracking photovoltaic solar power facility. TVA would purchase the power generated.

Under the power purchase agreement, “TVA’s obligation to purchase renewable power is contingent upon the satisfactory completion of the appropriate environmental review and TVA’s determination that the proposed action will be ‘environmentally acceptable.'”

To submit comments online, please email esmith14@tva.gov, or send by mail to 400 West Summit Hill Drive, WT 11B-K Knoxville, TN 37902. Follow this link for more information.

Verizon 5G use cases, energy transformations headline TAEBC Opportunities in Energy annual event

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council’s annual, year-end “Opportunities in Energy” event welcomed Majid Khan, Managing Director of Strategy and Business Development at Verizon to the stage at The Square Room at Market Square in Downtown Knoxville to talk about 5G and the future of energy in our region and the nation as a whole.

Khan articulated Verizon is the first in 5G, and how the telecommunications company is committed to deploying 5G across more cities and across the state of Tennessee, as well as the economic development and job creation benefits that are tied to this critical infrastructure.

This next generation network has been launched in 20 markets already, including Memphis with more Tennessee cities in consideration, and it’s creating an exciting transformation in the utility and generation sector.

Pictured: Majid Khan, Managing Director of Strategy and Business Development at Verizon

But in order to successfully deploy 5G, it’s not all about speed and throughput anymore. There’s lots more to consider including reliability, low latency, and proximity. It’s a network that while still being understood in its entirety, it’s creating immense opportunities.

“We want to make sure everyone understands 5G is new,” said Khan. “We’re still learning as an industry, we’re learning with our customers, we’re learning with the industry partners, and together we’re finding success. But by no means are we saying we have all the use cases defined and everyone has the answer. We’re early in the cycle, so we’re learning together.”

Khan stated real-time edge-base critical application is going to be key, and brought up the company’s recently announced partnership with Amazon Web Services to improve 5G speeds. So if Verizon can do that in a commercial environment, like with Amazon, the same thing can be applied in an energy and utility sector.

So how do you actually deploy 5G? Khan said there are four elements that the company has come up with. And if a city is missing one of these elements, the chances of them deploying it aren’t as likely.

  1. Fiber. Bottom line more fiber infrastructure is needed for 5G to be successful. In Memphis, there’s an initiative to place fiber both aerially and in the ground.
  2. Spectrum. The greater the frequency, the higher the bandwidth, and the lower the latency means 5G is more likely to be deployed. Verizon noted their looking at both high-bandwidth and mid-bandwidth locations as well.
  3. Software defined networks. A lot of 5G relies on virtualization and software networks ability to route your traffic.
  4. Real-estate & multi-access edge compute. Where do you actually house this massive amount of equipment? Utilities play a large role in that because they own the assets that Verizon needs to deploy 5G. So partnerships with, for example, KUB, MLGW, and NES are critical.

Verizon has invested in billions of dollars worth of investment in fiber companies, as they want to be the first in 5G and they realized thats what it would take to deploy that fiber.

Verizon’s goal is to serve every type of customer that exists inside the marketplace, whether that be small and medium businesses, government customers, state-level agencies, and utilities. All of those customers are going to need this fiber infrastructure. Some will be served through 4G/5G assets and some will be served with direct wire line activity.

Khan brought up the many use cases where 5G will be critical including the implementation of smart cities, autonomous transportation and connected vehicles, smart homes, energy & utilities, improving the healthcare industry, among others.

To build a better network for utilities, there must be an optimized, streamlined, and accelerated process. Early conversations with those utilities and governing officials are also critical. Khan mentioned that when Verizon is deploying their assets, about 40 to 50% of those assets are going on utility-owned assets. So educating their partners on what they’re planning on doing, what’s their timeline, and what exact infrastructure will be deployed, whether that be pole replacements or pole attachments or others, is vital to the success of 5G deployment. And above all else ensuring that when the equipment is installed, it’s not disrupting existing customers.

A panel discussion moderated by Dr. Greg Peterson, Professor & Department Head at the University of Tennessee in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, with Khan, Greg Thompson, Senior Manager of Smart Grid Services and Digital Engagements at Schneider Electric, as well as with Gary Brinkworth, Director of Enterprise Research and Technology Innovation at TVA focused primarily on the opportunities and challenges of how 5G can impact the energy landscape here in Tennessee.

Brinkworth commented on how TVA is interested in how 5G can help them and their local power companies (LPCs) to deploy more sensors, analysis and analytics at the grid-edge.

Specifically how can TVA deploy more sensors further out into their network and then successfully pull back into its control centers that information and do it at a speed that’s approaching real-time, so TVA can make real near-time decisions or allow the system to make those decisions that maintain reliability and resiliency for the broader grid. Asking, how does TVA enable that generation and transmission system that they’ve been operating for more than 80 years and how do they make it smarter and more responsive.

Thompson brought up that while enabling utilities and TVA with the devices to facilitate 5G successfully is important, so is including the end customer into this transition of energy. He mentioned how Schneider has been working with facilities, homes, and industrial locations to bring them in to this transformation. Schneider sees 5G as an opportunity to bring more of those sensor points and control applications in and bring in more of an energy-as-a-service type of model to the industry.

He also brought up the “prosumer” who is not only buying energy from a LPC but also generating their own energy at the same time. So as one is bringing the customer into the transaction, communications are critical. One also needs the utility to understand how the building is operating, connecting buildings to the grid, and connecting vehicles to the grid, and all those become a more complex prosumer type of a model. Mentioning responsiveness is also important and control applications because the grid needs to make decisions for its own health. So consumers must be brought into that.

Khan added in timing and echoed the importance of planning and coordination in minimizing disruption because at the end of the day it’s the people that matter. Advocacy is also crucial and public safety in addressing cybersecurity threats and ensuring reliability.

Education was also mentioned during the panel, particularly the importance in informing the public, from the workforce to the end-user, so they’ll be ready for the 5G transition.

Brinkworth said TVA recognized the education piece is an issue for them as the industry evolves and is becoming more technologically advanced with increasing digitization. TVA has been working to expose those in college to the energy transformation as well as how they’re training their people, especially in its transmission operations group, giving them different types of training of the digital transformation.

Thompson emphasized how their customer base isn’t used to that level of connectivity. So a lot of the education for them is explaining what the real value is for customers to transition and ensuring their security, minimizing their risk, and making sure there’s no disruptions.

Khan said Verizon has received feedback from some of the places they’ve been considering launching 5G requesting creating community outreach programs. Verizon has been working with utilities to ensure awareness is being raised with their customers about what 5G’s benefits are and the use cases.

TAEBC wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving!

As Thanksgiving approaches, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council has been reflecting on what we’re thankful for as Tennessee’s advanced energy sector continues to grow, creating jobs and economic development opportunities for the state.

Advanced energy is technology neutral. Any technology that makes energy cleaner, safer, more secure or more efficient is welcome at our table.

Our footprint expands to every corner of the state, and Tennessee’s advanced energy industry is well-positioned to strengthen at a robust pace. Other than our members, here’s what we’re thankful for this holiday season:

#1 Launch Tennessee & The Energy Mentor Network

We’re grateful for the opportunity to collaborate alongside Launch Tennessee, a public-private partnership that supports entrepreneurs from ideation to exit, to form the Energy Mentor Network.

The Energy Mentor Network’s goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and industry specific expertise.

In broad strokes, the Energy Mentor Network pairs mentors with promising new companies and entrepreneurs through a structured program involving panel presentations and mentoring sessions.

The purpose of the program is to develop quality startups. After completing the program, startups will have an investable pitch deck, a rock solid business model and a plan to establish more traction. These tools will position Tennessee’s entrepreneurs to raise capital, request other funds like SBIR grants, and scale their company.

We’re pleased to say four energy companies, Stone Mountain Technologies, Solar Site Design, Active Energy Systems and SkyNano have graduated from the program with several more on track.

(Interested in becoming a mentor for the next energy innovator? Click here. Are you a Tennessee energy startup and want to apply to the Energy Mentor Network program? Click here.)

#2 The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

TAEBC is committed to help Tennessee become the #1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs, in line with state leadership goals.

TNECD is working hard to make Tennessee a business friendly environment that not only attracts new companies to our state but also promotes growth for our existing businesses that call Tennessee home.

TAEBC has met with TNECD leaders outlining how our advanced energy sector employs nearly 360,000 Tennesseans in more than 18,000 businesses that contribute almost $40 billion to the state’s GDP. Advanced energy is a job-creation engine for Tennessee, and Tennessee’s advanced energy sector is growing faster than the overall state economy by a significant margin. 

#3 Increased federal support for energy research and development investments

Congress has continued to see the value in providing record funding for the Office of Science, one of the most important Department of Energy programs that support the work of our country’s 17 national laboratories, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

The Office of Science supports basic science and energy research and is the nation’s largest supporter of research in the physical sciences. For years, Congress has known and understood more comprehensive energy R&D funding means more economic development opportunities and high-quality jobs for Americans and Tennesseans. 

Happy Thanksgiving from the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council!

TDEC issues RFI on light duty ZEV supply equipment

On November 1, 2019, TDEC issued a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit program design feedback for the forthcoming solicitation under the Light Duty Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Supply Equipment category.

TDEC also plans to leverage program design insights from Drive Electric Tennessee’s Statewide Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Needs Assessment, which is expected to be published on TDEC’s Drive Electric Tennessee webpage. TDEC encourages respondents to review this Needs Assessment when compiling feedback.

View the Light Duty SEZ Supply Equipment RFI here

Respondents may submit information in response to some or all of the questions contained within the RFI (Section 5: Information Requested, pages 7-12). Responses should be transmitted electronically to TDEC.OEP@tn.gov in PDF format and must be received by 4:00 pm CT on December 6, 2019. TDEC will conduct a comprehensive review and evaluation of all responses.

TDEC will continue to release solicitations for funding under the VW Settlement EMT in the coming months. Interested persons are advised to sign up for the TDEC VW Settlement email list at https://signup.e2ma.net/signup/1843437/1737620/ to be kept apprised of all future and related announcements. For additional information on the VW Settlement, visit the TDEC website here: http://www.tn.gov/environment/VWSettlementClick here to learn more about TDEC’s project solicitations under the VW Settlement EMT.

Two TAEBC members make Solar Power World 2019’s Top 100 Solar Contractors List

Solar Power World, the industry’s leading source for technology, development and installation news, presents the 2019 Top Solar Contractors list. The list ranks applicants according to their influence in the U.S. solar industry in 2018.

The list details the headquarters location of a company, employees, its primary market (utility, commercial, residential) and its primary service (EPC, developer, rooftop contractor, installation subcontractor, electrical subcontractor, manufacturer installer). 

TAEBC member Silicon Ranch Corporation ranked at #26 on the list, installing 94,449 kW in 2018 alone.

Silicon Ranch is the U.S. solar platform for Shell and one of the largest independent solar power producers in the country. Silicon Ranch develops to own all of its projects for the long-term, a distinction that means the company is deeply committed to its partners and communities and stands behind the performance of its facilities day in and day out. The company’s operating portfolio includes more than 125 facilities across 14 states from New York to California, including the first large-scale solar projects in Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi and Arkansas.

Ameresco, headquartered in Massachusetts but with locations in Tennessee, ranked #55 on the list, installing 30,793 kW in 2018.

Ameresco is a leading energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions provider serving North America and the United Kingdom. Their energy experts deliver long-term customer value, environmental stewardship, and sustainability through energy efficiency, alternative energy, supply management, and innovative facility renewal all with practical financial solutions. Solar projects are designed for the unique needs of customers. Ameresco has built innovative projects on municipal landfills, parking garages, parking lots, interstate highways, military bases, industrial plants, schools, and airports. In addition, Ameresco has paired solar PV projects with batteries and interconnection controls for microgrid applications to meet resiliency objectives.

You can view the complete list and rankings on Solar Power World’s website.

Disclosure: Companies choose their primary market and primary service. That does not mean they only work in these areas. They could work across all markets and all services, and their listed kilowatts reflect their cumulative installation numbers from the last year in all markets, services and states. Ranks are determined by the number of kilowatts (DC) a company was involved with installing in 2018 in the United States only. If two companies reported the same 2018 numbers, they were sorted by total kilowatts installed.