TVA could handle charging of electric-powered
Jun 17, 2008 - Tom Humphrey -The Knoxville News - McClatchy-Tribune
Sentinel, Tenn. - TVA Chairman Bill Sansom told
a panel of congressmen Monday that the agency could easily
handle future demand from electric-powered cars and offer
a 20 percent discount -- so long as batteries are charged
"If they wanted to plug in from noon to 6 p.m., that would
be a challenge for us," Sansom said.
Sansom joined representatives of auto manufacturing companies,
battery producers and others at a forum before three members
of the TVA Congressional Caucus. The lawmakers were Republican
Sen. Lamar Alexander and Democratic Rep. Bart Gordon, both
of Tennessee, and Democrat Robert "Bud" Cramer of Alabama.
TVA typically has excess electricity generating capacity
during evening hours, averaging at least 7,000 to 8,000
megawatts more than demand. Alexander said that excess evening
capacity is "the single greatest untapped resource" of energy
in the region.
The senator said a nuclear power plant produces about 1,100
megawatts per day, meaning "the equivalent of five, six
or seven nuclear powers plants" is available at night. Alexander
said he expects "tens of thousands of Tennesseans" to switch
to vehicles at least partly powered by electricity within
the next five years.
Sansom said TVA would operate more efficiently by using
the excess capacity during evening hours because it costs
money to shut down generating capacity when unneeded, then
start the generators back up when peak demand hours approach.
Also, the TVA chairman said electricity can be produced
for battery-powered vehicles using coal-burning generators
with less carbon pollution than would be produced by gasoline-powered
Cars produce about a ton of carbon in using 100 gallons
of gasoline, typically traveling about 2,400 miles, he said.
An electric-powered car would travel about 3,600 miles on
electricity production that would generate a ton of carbon,
Electricity distributors using TVA power are already running
demonstration projects in Nashville and Bristol that provide
customers with "smart meters" and charge them more for electricity
used during peak demand hours and considerably less at night.
Prior to the forum, Alexander drove around Nashville streets
in a Toyota Prius hybrid equipped with a special Lithium
Ion Nanophosphate battery made by A123 Systems of Boston
that was installed at a cost of $10,000. The Prius standard
battery can drive only about a mile and a half on battery
power alone, while the special battery gives it a 30-mile
range on electricity without using gasoline.
Les Goldman, head of A123 Systems, estimated that the $10,000
cost can be cut in half as demand for the batteries increases,
triggering "economies of scale" in production and as technology
Goldman said that tests in Maryland, where electricity
costs 11.7 cents per kilowatt, show the Prius with an A123
battery can be charged for a 30-mile trip with about 60
cents worth of electricity. Sansom said the figures would
be lower in the TVA area, where the cost of electricity
is about 8 or 9 cents.
Jack Sayed, speaking for Nissan North America, said Nissan
expects to produce a hybrid car that can travel 100 miles
solely on electric power by 2010. Alexander observed that
such a car would effectively eliminate the need for gasoline
by a majority of drivers in their day-to-day commuting.
Gordon said that he can envision a time when "you can plug
in your house," charging a battery during nonpeak hours
to run household appliances, heating and air conditioning
on stored power during peak hours.
Alexander said running coal-fired generators at night
will create more pollution and the federal government should
offer tax incentives or grants to utilities for installation
of equipment needed to reduce mercury, sulphur and nitrogen
New revenue TVA receives from selling electricity at night
could also offset the cost of pollution-reduction equipment,