The Growing Wind Industry in Tennessee

Guest Blog | June 30, 2011 | Energy Policy, Wind

This blog was co-authored by Simon Mahan.

This is the fourth blog in a series of five where the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy will be highlighting states throughout our region and their role in the wind industry.

Installed Wind Capacity in Megawatts (2030) - U.S. Department of Energy's 20% Windpower by 2030 report, 2008

Tennessee is the proud home to the Southeast’s first, and as yet only, wind farm. Utility customers helped make this possible by purchasing clean energy blocks through the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Green Power Switch program. The wind farm, located on Buffalo Mountain near Oliver Springs, started small at 2 megawatts (MW) capacity in 2000. By 2005, demand for clean power had grown so much that TVA agreed to purchase power from a 27 MW expansion of the wind farm. The expansion is owned by the wind development company Invenergy. At 29 MW capacity total, the wind farm is relatively small, but still generates enough electricity to power about 3,780 Tennessee homes each year.

Tennessee has much more opportunity for wind power. The Volunteer State contains nearly 37,500 MW of potential onshore wind resource. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy published a report on how to achieve 20% of the nation’s electrical supply from wind power. In that report, the DOE estimated that Tennessee would supply between 1,000 MW to 5,000 MW of wind energy by 2030. The nation’s wind energy growth would also create up to 20,000 manufacturing jobs in the state.

The Southeast's first wind farm. Photo by Stephen Smith.

The Buffalo Mountain Wind Farm is only one example of the wind industry’s presence in Tennessee; there are several other, perhaps less obvious, providers of wind energy supplies and services located in the state. The following is a non-exhaustive list of companies located in Tennessee who serve wind industry customers:

  • Barnhart Renewables (Knoxville, TN) Services range from turbine erection to on-going maintenance and repair. Barnhart  has installed over 3,000 megawatts of power in the wind industry for manufacturers, developers, and owners, including Tennessee’s Buffalo Mountain wind farm.
  • EnerNex (Knoxville, TN) an electric power engineering and consulting firm specializing in the development and application of new electric power technologies.
  • Flash Tech (Franklin, TN)  provides specialized obstruction lighting products to serve the telecommunications, broadcast, wind energy, airport, utilities markets and specialty applications to comply with Federal Aviation Administration lighting regulations.
  • International Tower Lighting, LLC (Nashville, TN) designs and manufactures obstruction lighting systems and components for towers.
  • Sherman & Reilly (Chattanooga, TN) manufactures tools and equipment for installing transmission and distribution overhead and underground power conductors and fiber optic communications cable products.
  • SIAG Aerisyn (Chattanooga, TN) produces steel wind turbine towers.
  • Signal Energy (Chattanooga, TN) is a design/build contractor to the renewable energy industry.
  • Tennessee Equipment Supply, Inc. (Knoxville, TN) provides knowledge in fall protection, work positioning, and rescue for work at heights, confined space and technical rescue.

    Wind Manufacturing Jobs in Job-Years (2030) - U.S. Department of Energy's 20% Windpower by 2030 report, 2008
  • Thomas & Betts (Memphis, TN) manufactures turbine towers and has done so since the 1970s.
  • TSM Corp (Bartlett, TN) designs, manufactures, and markets Advanced Technology Automatic Fire detection and suppression equipment to prevent serious damage to high value equipment.
  • Tennessee Valley Infrastructure Group (Chattanooga, TN) offers turnkey engineering, procurement, and construction services as well as balance of plant contracting, turbine siting, permitting, land contract negotiations, project design and construction and interconnection agreement services. TVIG was contracted to provide balance of plant services to Invenergy for the Buffalo Mountain wind farm.

Despite the wind energy industry presence in Tennessee, if the state is going to achieve the Department of Energy’s scenario to develop up to 5 gigawatts worth of wind capacity and generate up to 20,000 in-state manufacturing jobs by 2030, the state will need to recognize renewable energy as a valuable economic engine. TVA must pursue an energy portfolio that includes in-valley renewable energy and the state’s federal delegates should propose and support stable tax incentives for the wind industry. If you would like to get involved in promoting renewable energy in Tennessee, be sure to check out SACE’s Advokit.

Be sure to read the other blogs in this series for KentuckyGeorgiaSouth Carolina and North Carolina.

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