What Is the Tennessee Valley Authority?
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is a United States government agency established in 1933 to control floods, improve navigation, manufacture fertilizers and produce electrical power along the Tennessee River and its tributaries as a a federally owned corporation for economic development of the Tennessee Valley, a region particularly affected by the Great Depression.
TVA was envisioned not only as a provider, but also as a regional economic development agency that would use federal experts and electricity to rapidly modernize the region’s economy and society. Its jurisdiction is generally limited to the drainage basin of the river which covers parts of Seven States—Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. America’s fifth largest river, the Tennessee, was interrupted in its westward flow at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where it dropped 100 feet in the course of 20 miles.
Many schemes for generating hydroelectric power had been put forward, but it was not until 1933 that the decision was made. At that time the United States was experiencing a Great Depression and president Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) strongly favored development at Muscle Shoals which would stimulate the economy of the region. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the TVA Act on May 18, 1933. This enterprise was a result of the efforts of Senator George W. Norris of Nebraska, after whom Norris Dam is named. The authority eventually operated 32 major dams and river traffic increased from 33 million ton miles in 1933 to more than 2,000 miles in the 1960s.
The TVA, power system possesses a huge generating capacity which is sold in bulk. Nitrate plants at Muscle Shoals have been developed and production of experimental fertilizers and studies of forest conditions have been carried out. The TVA also played an important part in increasing recreational opportunities in the valley. The “Great Lakes of the South” provide many such facilities.
TVA’s power mix as of 2012 is 10 coal-powered plants, 29 hydroelectric dams, three nuclear power plants (with seven operating reactors), nine simple cycle natural gas combustion turbine plants, and five combined cycle gas plants. TVA is the largest public power utility in the United States and one of the largest producers of electricity in the country. It acts as a regional grid reliability coordinator.
In 2012 coal generation was about 32% of total, nuclear 34%, hydro 9%, and (owned) gas 11%. TVA currently purchases from external power producers about 15% of the power it sells. Purchased power is from natural gas combined cycles, coal, wind, and other renewables. The cost of Purchased Power is part of the “Fuel Cost Adjustment” (FCA) charge that is separate from the TVA Rate. Watts Bar reactor produces tritium as a byproduct for the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, which requires tritium for nuclear weapons (for “boosted” fission primaries and for fusion secondaries).