TVA’s new chief is focused on the future. Here’s how we can make it bright

Originally published by The Chattanooga Times Free Press

By: Mary Beth Hudson, TAEBC Board Member

It’s been just over a month since he’s taken over the reins of the Tennessee Valley Authority, but new CEO Jeffrey Lyash is already focused on the future.

He’s committed to prioritizing “what is needed in the long run” when making strategic investments and changes to meet the changing environmental and economic landscape, Lyash told the Times Free Press recently. “The public power model in the valley will allow us to think about what is best over time for all of our customers,” he said.

The answer to what’s best, whether for TVA, its customers, business development, or every-day Tennesseans, is the same: advanced energy.

Advanced energy may be a booming $1.4 trillion global market, but it’s intimately linked to the welfare, employment, and economic prospects of all Tennesseans.

Our state has exploded as a powerplayer in advanced energy innovation over the last decade, thanks in large part to the unique set of assets that make it a triple-threat: TVA, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and business-friendly regulations and workforce. The sector drives approximately $39.7 billion to state Gross Domestic Product, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) found in its 2018 economic impact report. It’s growing even more rapidly than the overall state economy, employing close to 360,000 Tennesseans in generally higher-paid positions than the state average annual wage.

In our backyard here in Chattanooga, the advanced energy industry drives more than $1.5 billion in annual payroll to more than 31,142 local workers.

I’m fortunate to count myself among the advanced energy employees, as vice president of Wacker Polysilicon NCA and site manager of the Charleston plant, where we manufacture the polysicion that forms the base material for solar power panels. Support of advanced energy is critical for international corporations like Wacker – the growing drive for sustainability and access to non-traditional energy sources is becoming a prerequisite in companies’ site-selection decision-making process. Wacker just invested an additional $150 million into expanding its $2.5 billion plant in Charleston – but expansions like these and new recruitment of businesses to the state hinges upon whether we continue to invest in advanced energy.

But beyond economic and workforce development, investment in advanced energy should be a no-brainer for TVA for a more simple reason: It’s the future of energy – whether we embrace it or not.

From a long-term sustainability standpoint, the fact is that resources like fossil fuels are limited and won’t last forever. Instead of burning natural gas at large centralized power plants, producing CO2 emissions in the process and wasting the carbon molecules on a single use, we should be preserving these finite resources. Carbon molecules are the building blocks of plastics manufacturing, necessary to make higher-end items such as medical products including replacement heart valves, implants and prosthetics. Prioritizing advanced energy allows us to store fossil fuels such as natural gas, creating an asset that drives the nation’s manufacturing economy with the production of advanced materials.

We should all be encouraged by Lyash’s words embracing the challenges and opportunities of the energy landscape of the future. That future is advanced energy, and whether Tennessee advances as an economic powerhouse and epicenter of advanced energy innovation, or gets left behind in irrelevancy, is in TVA’s hands. If Lyash follows through on his word, then our future is bright.

 Mary Beth Hudson is vice president of Wacker Polysilicon in the Americas, site manager of Wacker’s Charleston, Tennessee plant and a board member of the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council.

Tennessee Valley Authority on the precipice of powering our advanced energy future

By Steve Seifried, TAEBC Board Member

(Originally published on The Knoxville News-Sentinel)

The sun is rising on a new day for Tennessee and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

After six years, TVA president and CEO Bill Johnson retired recently. His successor is Jeffrey Lyash, who stands to take over the reins at a critical juncture for Tennessee’s economy and energy industry. It’s not your typical transfer of power: The ascent of the advanced energy industry hands TVA the keys to transform Tennessee into an economic powerhouse and position the utility as the energy company of the future.

Economic success is increasingly tied to energy options. Businesses of all sizes – from Fortune 100 companies to mom-and-pop stores – are setting sustainability goals and incorporating advanced energy into their processes and products, in concert with growing public awareness of energy usage and climate impact.

That’s great news for Tennessee, which is on the path to becoming the epicenter of advanced energy innovation.

Advanced energy powers Tennessee’s GDP: $39.7 billion

We sit on a war chest of unequaled energy assets: TVA, the nation’s largest public utility; Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a world-leader in scientific discovery and energy research; and a business-friendly climate. This energy axis operates as an economic development and job creation machine, pulling in businesses and talent looking to invest and expand in our state.

Here’s what that looks like in concrete numbers: Advanced energy powers Tennessee’s gross domestic product to the tune of $39.7 billion, a 2018 report from the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) found. The industry is eclipsing even the overall economy in employment growth, employing close to 360,000 Tennesseans in positions generally paying more than the state’s average annual wage.

Whether Tennessee communities can continue to capitalize upon this lucrative industry and cement our place as a leader in the $1.4 trillion global advanced energy market depends, in large part, on what TVA and Lyash do next.

Advanced energy encompasses any technology that makes electricity or transportation cleaner, safer, more secure, or more efficient – it’s square in TVA’s wheelhouse. Even more, it’s central to TVA’s stated three-pronged mission of power generation, environmental stewardship, and economic development.

Grant local power providers and private industry easier access

We all have a stake in TVA’s embrace of advanced energy innovation, programs, and partners. By making it easier for companies to deploy advanced energy technologies and develop innovative energy solutions, TVA plays a central role in attracting and retaining talent and corporate investment in our state. Prioritizing advanced energy is vital to Tennessee’s economic development, and TVA is perfectly positioned to lead this critical initiative.

Former president Johnson will leave a legacy of general reception to advanced energy innovation, powering down aging and inefficient coal plants, launching programs to offer advanced energy options, investing in new energy technology and the next generation of energy entrepreneurs at ORNL’s Innovation Crossroads.

But there’s much to be done. While TVA’s draft 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) emphasizes some aspects of advanced energy, it stops short of fully embracing the industry in a way that would generate positive ripple effects across Tennessee’s and the Valley’s economy.

What may seem like a minor oversight today can have enormous repercussions down the road. TVA and Tennessee must not fall behind other states and regions who have positioned themselves to capitalize upon the energy of the future. The good news is that the time to strike is now.

Beginning with a commitment to flexibility and transparency, TVA should grant local power providers and private industry easier access to renewable and advanced energy generation. It should stay abreast of advanced energy trends and nurture them here in Tennessee, and deepen TVA’s investment into advanced energy resources.

TAEBC is committed to supporting TVA and its leadership under new chief Lyash to seize upon the opportunities offered by advanced energy. TVA’s commitment to advanced energy will directly benefit the utility itself, our overall economy, and every Tennessean.

Steve Seifried is an account executive with Ameresco and a board member of the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council.

Launch Tennessee hosting upcoming commercialization resources workshop

Join Launch Tennessee on Monday, May 13 in Chattanooga for an engaging workshop on Tennessee’s SBIR and commercialization resources.

By attending the workshop, you’ll get in-depth exposure to federal grant funding opportunities and learn of resources available to Tennesseans.

Tennessee is one of few states with an entrepreneur-resource infrastructure operating at the state level. Through our statewide partner network, we deliver curriculum, mentors and more to entrepreneurs building high-growth-potential businesses.

LaunchTN maintains a portfolio of resources for Tennessee-based entrepreneurial researchers to advance their commercialization efforts. These resources include:

  1. Networks programs that pair mentors with promising new companies and entrepreneurs;
  2. Microgrants that provide financial support for grant-writing assistance to Tennessee-based early-stage companies; and
  3. the SBIR Matching Fund that provides non-dilutive capital to Tennessee-based companies upon their successful federal grant award.

Lunch will be provided. Please direct questions about this workshop to

You can register for the workshop here.

Tennessee’s largest solar farm now operational at Millington Naval Facility

The largest solar farm in the state of Tennessee is now operational at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Mid-South in Millington. The innovative project is the result of a unique public-private partnership that brought together the City of Millington, the U.S. Navy, Memphis, Light, Gas and Water (MLGW), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and Silicon Ranch Corporation with a shared vision to support the local community and the naval base.

Nashville-based Silicon Ranch, the U.S. solar platform for Shell and one of America’s largest independent solar power producers, employed more than 300 people to construct the 53 megawatt (MWAC) facility and will provide reliable, resilient power to the NSA Mid-South and TVA at cost-competitive rates for the next twenty years. As part of the unique partnership, Silicon Ranch signed a long-term lease with the U.S. Navy for 72 acres of base land and purchased an adjacent 348 acres from the Millington Industrial Development Board (MIDB).

While the majority of the solar array is located on the adjacent private land, the naval installation received a brand new alternative electrical feed that will increase energy security and resilience at NSA Mid-South. This feature enables the installation’s more than 6,500 personnel to focus on their mission at the Navy’s Human Resources Center of Excellence. The project also illustrates the value of divesting Navy land that isn’t crucial to an installation’s mission and could be redeveloped through partnerships to benefit the Navy and the surrounding community.

Underscoring the significance of the landmark project, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said, “Partnerships fuel innovation, and we are proud of the work by community leaders, the U.S. Navy, and Silicon Ranch to expand solar technology in West Tennessee. We look forward to a continued partnership as we strengthen rural Tennessee, modernize our infrastructure, and prepare for the jobs of the future.”

Read more from Silicon Ranch Corporation’s website.

TAEBC announces three-part ‘Ask Me Anything’ series with Energy CEOs

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council recently announced a new, three-part series that will give attendees the opportunity to “ask anything” from some of the most well-known energy CEOs in the state.

RSVP now, as space is limited!

Our first session of the “Ask Me Anything” series will feature Silicon Ranch Corporation Co-Founder & CEO, Matt Kisber!

It’ll be happening Tuesday, May 21, at Silicon Ranch’s Headquarters in Nashville starting at 2 p.m. CT.

The event will be free to all TAEBC members, and TAEBC non-members will have to pay a $25 entrance fee plus an additional small fee for processing.

“Ask Me Anything” sessions provide intimate, candid discussions between attendees and energy CEOS where attendees can “ask anything” related to business, strategy, work-life balance and everything in between.

The sessions will consist of live questions with a moderator as well as questions sent in prior to the event via social media. We will have announcements leading up to the event of when we’ll be accepting those questions, so look out for these on our LinkedIn Page, Facebook Page or Twitter Page.

Additional details for the other two parts of the series are coming soon!

Matt Kisber, Co-Founder & CEO, Silicon Ranch Corporation