Solar projects that deliver reliable, affordable, clean energy and benefit the local economy have overwhelming support – with exceptions.
Chris Carnival | August 13, 2021
| Solar, Tennessee, utilities
A clean energy project in West Tennessee recently caught our attention at SACE as a remarkable innovation designed specifically to bring great benefit to the nearby community.
A renewable energy developer was asked by members of the Jackson, Tennessee community to build a clean solar microgrid for his city. Its benefits for Jackson include creating local economic development, job creation, providing renewable energy education opportunities, reducing energy bills for customers, and building the city's tax base.
The facility is leased from a Tennessee nonprofit called the Jackson Sustainability Cooperative. Members are businesses near the facility on Roosevelt Parkway that have high electricity demands. They buy the electricity from their cooperative.
The microgrid consists of solar, battery storage and electrical devices in separate buildings, underground lines to the customers' buildings, and intelligent switchboards and meters in these buildings. It will directly provide clean energy to some nearby large industrial companies, supplementing the electricity they get from the local electricity company. The microgrid is not connected to the lines of the energy supplier. Instead, it works in parallel and supplies electricity at times of the day when electricity demand and electricity costs are highest.
Lower energy costs and reliable power supply
This extra electricity will help local businesses cut costs by offsetting the amount of energy they need to buy during these expensive “peak hours”. The strict regulation of frequency and voltage prevents electrical surges, dips and peaks, and this protects your expensive machines. Since the system is completely storm-proof and all the cabling is underground, it will provide an uninterruptible power supply even in the event of a power failure.
The microgrid will also reduce electricity costs for local utility companies Jackson Energy Authority (JEA) and Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and thus indirectly for all of their electricity customers, by reducing the wear and tear of power lines, substations and electrical equipment from high-demand offloading.
This project will recognize Jackson as the nation’s leading provider of solar microgrids and could be an asset that would help attract and recruit additional companies to open local businesses. For existing Jackson businesses, the economic savings, highly reliable power supplies, and high quality, regulated electricity could be a factor in growing and doubling their investment and employment in the Jackson community.
The project is a win-win-win scenario for the project developers, the companies that receive the energy, the local utility company and TVA. But perhaps the greatest beneficiaries of this project would be members of the local community.
Good jobs and economic benefits for the local community
Local employees are hired to install and maintain the project. A professional Economic Impact Study by SynEnergy showed that the economic impact of the project over ten years – both directly and indirectly – would be $ 231 million, including 678 full-time positions during the construction period (of course, some jobs would be for the local population) . and some would be for others) and then 22-28 full-time permanent positions and millions of dollars in new local tax revenue. This tax revenue could fund community priorities such as schools, libraries, community centers, emergency services, or programs. In addition, the project would provide educational and career opportunities as the development team plans an internship program and partnership with local schools. All of these can improve the lives of Jackson residents.
This type of investment could greatly benefit the local community in Jackson, where the United Way of Tennessee reports that – even before the COVID pandemic – one in three people living in Jackson's 38301 zip code is living in poverty and the wages of nearly half of Jackson's residents are non-living wages and barely meet basic needs.
Overwhelming support, with one exception
It is therefore not surprising that the response from the local community to the project has been overwhelmingly positive. It received almost unanimous support at two public forums to inform neighbors about the project. This local support was also reflected in a 7-0 vote for approval of the project by the Jackson Planning Commission.
With all of these potential benefits and local support, why should anyone or any organization try to block the provision of reliable, inexpensive electricity supplies to improve people's lives and attract economic development?
The answer may surprise you, it seems that both TVA and JEA are trying to block this innovative project on several levels. SACE examines the rationale behind TVA's actions.
In a future post, we'll explore why such a rewarding project, according to Jackson, TN, with cutting-edge technologies combining solar, battery storage, and microgrids that deliver reliable, affordable, and clean energy for the benefit of the local economy, is being rejected as the largest public electricity company in the country continuing the efforts of the Biden administration for clean, climate-friendly electricity technology.