U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander told the Senate today as it began debate on a new energy bill that a proposed renewable energy standard involving wind power would "raise our taxes, run away jobs and ruin our mountaintops."
"Forcing Tennesseans either to build 40-story wind turbines on our pristine mountaintops or to pay billions in penalty taxes to the federal government amounts to a judge giving a defendant the choice of being hanged or shot," Alexander said. "In Tennessee the wind simply doesn't blow enough to produce much electric power. Residential homeowners can't afford these taxes, industries will take their jobs to states with cheaper power and tourists will spend their dollars where they can see mountaintops instead of giant wind turbines."
"The better choice for clean, reasonably priced electricity in Tennessee is more power from conservation and efficiency, nuclear reactors and clean coal," Alexander said. "Because of its nuclear and hydro plants, Tennessee is already on the honor roll, ranking 16th among states in production of carbon-free electricity."
Tennessee is one of 27 states that would not meet the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) expected to be offered as an amendment by Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) as part of the energy legislation now before the Senate. Senator Bingaman's amendment would mandate that 15 percent of energy come from renewable sources by 2020, such as wind, or that utilities pay a penalty for failing to meet that goal.
Alexander said TVA estimates that Bingaman's proposal would eventually add $410 million a year to Tennesseans’ utility bills. The senator said: "This is real money and could be better spent:
"*giving away 205 million $2 fluorescent light bulbs per year, producing energy savings equaling the combined energy output of almost two of the three units of TVA's Brown's Ferry Nuclear Plant or the equivalent of 3,700 1.8 megawatt wind turbines spanning 550 miles of ridge line, or more than twice the distance from Bristol to Chattanooga;
"*or, paying the $101 per month electric bill for Tennessee’s 2.5 million residential TVA customers for one and one half months a year
"*or purchasing one new scrubber each 9 months to clean emissions from TVA's coal fired power plants."
Alexander said he opposes the amendment also because:
The National Academy of Sciences says 93 percent of potential wind-energy capacity occurs west of the Mississippi River, with just 7 percent in Tennessee and other states east of the Mississippi.
TVA scientists say that it would take 720 1.8 MW wind turbines lining 110 miles of East Tennessee ridge tops - the distance from Knoxville to Chattanooga- to meet just a 2 percent proposed wind standard.
The 400 foot wind turbines are twice as high as the luxury boxes at the University of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium. The rotor blades of one wind turbine would span from one 10-yard line to the other 10-yard line of the stadium’s football field.
TVA’s Buffalo Mountain Wind Farm in Tennessee - the only operating utility-scale wind-energy project in the Southeast – operates at just 19 to 24 percent of capacity due to a lack of wind. This is far below the 35 to 38 percent advertised by the wind industry for new facilities.
Alexander said that he "strongly backs renewable power wherever it makes sense." The Senator has been honored by the solar industry as the Senate's principal sponsor of a tax credit for homeowners who put solar panels on their homes. He has worked with the Tennessee Farm Bureau to encourage the use of biomass as a renewable energy.
Attached is a letter from the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners opposing the RPS and graphics and photos highlighting the impact the proposed RPS could have on Tennessee.
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