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TVA: Wind project application accepted, under review

CENTRE – A spokesman for the Tennessee Valley Authority said it is too early to know when a wind turbine farm in Cherokee County could receive the final go-ahead from TVA officials.

Austin, Texas-based Pioneer Green Energy is hoping to build 8 to 10 of the turbines atop Lookout Mountain near Leesburg within the next 14 to 18 months.

“The application has been submitted and accepted, but they have some additional activities to complete before they receive a notice from us to go ahead with the project,” Renewable Energy Projects Manager Ed Stevens said last week. “They are reviewing data now and they still have a little work to do.”

Stevens and TVA Communications Specialist Mike Bradley spoke exclusively with The Post to explain some of the details of the process the federal agency follows to determine the viability of proposals such as the so-called Shinbone Wind Project.

Bradley said such proposals fall under the TVA’s new Standard Renewable Offer (SRO), a pro-gram tailored to developers of new small and mid-size renewable energy projects within the TVA service area.

According to the TVA website (www.tva.gov), SRO projects are renewable plans with a set price, or “standard offer.” The SRO program was designed to contribute to the development of alternative energy sources and promote TVA’s economic development efforts.

“The SRO program grew out of an earlier pilot program for smaller renewable energy projects,” Bradley said. “We have four active projects generating about 8 megawatts of electricity with many more, including the Shinbone project, in the pipeline being processed.”

Bradley said one of those four, which produces energy by burning methane gas generated by a landfill, is in Alabama.

Bradley said the Shinbone project is “early on” in the evaluation process. He declined to offer an estimate of the project’s overall viability or ultimate timeline for completion.

“We’re gathering new information daily,” Bradley said. “It would be premature, at this point, to say if there are any obstacles to completion.”

Stevens said he has been impressed with the effort and professionalism he has seen so far from Pioneer Green.

“It has been our experience that they seem to be taking all the necessary steps to complete the project,” Stevens said.

Stevens outlined the three-step process TVA implements to make decisions regarding SRO proposals.

“First is the application review, which is basically completed,” Stevens said.

Stevens said step two, currently underway, includes TVA environmental studies and an interconnection review. He said Pioneer Green is also intimately involved in step two, submitting several items, such as various engineering drawings and applications for equipment installation and energy delivery.

Stevens said step three is TVA’s announcement of its acceptance of the project Pioneer Green being allowed to, literally, “build it, hook it up and turn it on.”

Bradley said TVA is continually working with companies like Pioneer Green and is hopeful for the long-term practicality of alternative energy projects.

“We encourage growth of renewable energy across the Valley, which is why the SRO program was created,” Bradley said. “We feel there is good momentum for this project and others.”

Pioneer Green Vice President David Savage told The Post his company hopes to have the wind turbine farm up and running as soon as December 2013.

“It’s fair to say it is a collaborative process,” Savage said of his company’s efforts to seek TVA approval for wind turbine farm in Cherokee County. “We are in constant, close communication with TVA.”

Savage said he expects TVA to formally publicize the Shinbone project next month.

“Sometime in November they will do that and then later they will hold a public meeting, at which time they will welcome public comments,” Savage said. “Later on they will release the results of their studies and announce their decision about whether or not to go ahead with the project.”

Last month the Cherokee County Parks and Recreation Board signed a contract with Pioneer Green to study the feasibility of placing a turbine near Cherokee Rock Village. On Oct. 10, a group of 15-20 people opposed to the placement of one of the turbines on county property attended the Park Board meeting to voice their disapproval.

If the project is realized, the majority of the turbines would be constructed on private property adjacent to the park. Savage has said the process will proceed with or without a turbine in the park.

Leesburg resident Shannon Mackey asked the members of the Parks and Recreation Board to reconsider their decision and allow more time for public comment.

“This board has essentially given permission for a factory to be built next to one of our county’s most precious landmarks,” Mackey said. “It has been done in such a speedy fashion so as to preclude any public input.”