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Not enough green power for demand -- Tennessee deficit problem

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is selling significantly more power in its Green Power Switch program than it is actually producing, according to a recent audit by the federal agency. As a result, customers are paying for wind energy the utility is unable to deliver.

But as soon as Invenergy's 27 MW Buffalo Mountain project is online, perhaps late this year, TVA's deficit will turn into a large surplus, says Dan Lieberman, program manager for Green-e, a national certification program for utility green marketing programs.

Invenergy's development is the only sizeable wind power station currently under construction in the United States. The rest of the industry, with 5 GW of projects lined up, has been waiting for reinstatement of wind's federal production tax credit before venturing on site (Windpower Monthly, September 2004).

Lieberman says its more efficient to build a base of customers first and to build larger projects once the base is built, but that Green-e still applies rules to how large a supply deficit can be. "They've managed to remain within our rules and we do allow a certain amount of banking, although they are walking a tightrope," Lieberman says. "At this point, they've built a decent chunk of unmet demand. If the wind farm doesn't go up, that could be a problem, but I have no reason to believe it won't come online."

If the wind project, which is using Vestas 1.8 MW turbines, is not operating by the end of 2004, TVA may have to find alternative ways to make up the deficit. Those alternatives, Lieberman says, include reimbursing customers or finding and paying for suitable alternative generation.

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