By Matt Brown
TVA’s Generation Flexibility program, launched in June 2020, has allowed local power companies (LPCs) to generate their own power locally for the first time in TVA history. The majority of LPCs in the Tennessee Valley have opted into the program and entered into Long Term Partnership Agreements with TVA, allowing them to generate up to 5% of their annual sales. Now, TVA has rolled out Expanded Generation Flexibility, a new modified initiative, with a whole host of new and expanded flexibility opportunities that will enhance the ability of LPCs to capitalize on this innovative program.
The first iteration of Generation Flex has been a remarkable success. Based on the Environmental Review of the original Flexibility Program, TVA estimated that there was roughly 2,000MW of availability throughout the Valley. At Silicon Ranch, we provide fixed prices for energy and capacity for the duration of the PPA, which allows our partners to help offset the rising of wholesale power costs. Generation Flexibility has also provided tax benefits to the communities in which Flex projects are located and millions of dollars in investment to those same localities with no extra use of local services. Additionally, these projects have provided utilities with an additional benefit of energy resilience, as Silicon Ranch’s LPC partners discovered during Winter Storm Elliott, when our fleet continued to operate at peak performance throughout the duration of the historic weather event, enabling our partners with distributed Flexibility Solar Projects to reduce the number of members for whom they had to curtail and cut power.
“BrightRidge has developed a strong business relationship with Silicon Ranch, partnering on a 5 MW solar farm under the old Distributed Solar Solutions program and, more recently, a 9 MW generation flexibility project. Both of these projects produce substantial generation for our customers, lowering costs while providing redundant supply. The recent severe cold snap proved the value of local solar. Neighbors on local circuits serving the solar farms didn’t lose power as we needed to ensure generation reached the market. And, with solar generation throughout the valley, TVA was able to exit curtailment faster as solar was largely unaffected by the cold temperatures.”— Jeff Dykes, President and CEO of BrightRidge
The Expanded Flexibility program, details of which were recently released by TVA, aims to build on the successes of the program’s first iteration in three major ways. First of all, it will allow multiple LPCs to aggregate the capacity allotted to them into one project. In other words, a single Generation Flex project will be permitted to supply power to more than one LPC. This will allow for more efficient economies of scale for Flex projects, especially with respect to utilities with smaller energy demands. Secondly, LPCs will be allowed to contract TVA interconnected projects that are off the LPC’s system and outside of its service jurisdiction. This measure has particularly salient implications for land-constrained utilities and municipal utilities that would not otherwise have the necessary available land within their service area for a Flex project. Whereas formerly Generation Flexibility projects required that the solar projects be interconnected to the respective LPC’s distribution system, this new measure brings the benefits of Flexibility outlined above to a whole new set of LPCs in the Valley.
Lastly, the modified program guidelines will allow over-generation (also known as backfeed) onto the TVA generation system. This will allow for generation to exceed the substation load, with any over-generation treated by TVA as credit to the benefit of the LPC tied to the project.
Expanded Flexibility or “Flex 2.0” is a silver bullet for LPCs across the Valley who are looking for to keep rates stable and boost economic development opportunities, especially in light of TVA’s recent announcement that wholesale rates will rise by 4.5% on October 1 and further next year. All LPCs should be encouraged by this updated framework for the Flexibility Program. LPCs that have been prevented from taking full advantage of this program in the past due to land constraints, economies of scale, or concerns about over-generation, are now in a position to score a big win for themselves and their customers.
About Silicon Ranch
Founded in 2011, Silicon Ranch is a fully integrated provider of customized renewable energy, carbon, and battery storage solutions for a diverse set of partners across North America. The company is one of the largest independent power producers in the country, with a portfolio that includes more than five gigawatts of solar and battery storage systems that are contracted, under construction, or operating across the U.S. and Canada. Silicon Ranch owns and operates every project in its portfolio and has maintained an unblemished track record of project execution, having successfully commissioned every project it has contracted in its history. Silicon Ranch has the largest utility scale agrivoltaics portfolio in the country under Regenerative Energy® its nationally recognized holistic approach to project design, construction, and land management. This model incorporates regenerative ranching and other regenerative land management practices to restore livelihoods and soil health, biodiversity, and water quality. In 2021, Silicon Ranch acquired Clearloop, which helps businesses of all sizes reclaim their carbon footprint with a direct investment in building new solar projects while helping to bring renewable energy to American communities that can benefit the most from these projects. To learn more, visit siliconranch.com and clearloop.us. Follow Silicon Ranch on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.