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TVA’s belated recognition of our Town

With “Town wins green power award,” the Johnson City Press recently indicated Jonesborough’s “dedication to green power generation” being recognized by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
One might ask what took the TVA so long! Twelve years ago, when Bishop Sally Bingham toured our area, she presented a southeast region Green Power Leadership award to Tobie Bledsoe, then the town’s mayor.
Two years following TVA’s initiation of a pilot project to produce electricity from renewable sources, the Johnson City Power Board had joined the distributor network that offers clean power to customers. Its outreach to the residential, business and municipal customer base gained approval by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, in February 2002, for Jonesborough’s participation in the Green Power Switch program.
As the minutes show, the BMA also authorized an informational mailing from the mayor regarding this decision, as “officially [to] encourage individual residents to participate.”
The mailing stated support for the public investment in green power from the large majority of citizens, only one caller to the town office having expressed opposition.
Three years before the GPS pilot program came on line, a TVA-commissioned survey of residential consumers had found similarly strong support for renewable energy electricity. Results of the survey showed solar panels and hydroelectric power favored at nearly 80 percent, windmill farms and waste conversion plant ratings at higher than 60 percent. Consumers liked least the notion of TVA expanding its fossil based and nuclear generation capacity, the preference ratings for these being at or below 34 percent.
In Mrs. Bledsoe, one might say in hindsight, the BMA “authorized” quite the right person to help spread green-power adoption. For several years under her leadership, when she served on the TVA’s steering committee for Green Power Switch, the town was practically a hub of educational and exploratory activities in that regard.
One recalls wind power conferences and a green-energy expo held at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center, and even a (Department of Energy funded) anemometer tower measuring wind-energy potential on the hill site by the wastewater treatment plant. Over years during Appalachian Fair week with her help, the GPS program was publicized and individual sign-ups sought, jointly with the Power Board.
One found Tobie in Oak Ridge, witnessing the arrival of the giant turbines which, in TVA’s Buffalo Mountain wind park near there, would soon make pollution-free electricity for nearly 4,000 homes. Closer to home, she spurred recognition, through a large celebratory public opening event, when the Hickman’s solar installation in Gray became the Power Board’s first Generation Partners facility to feed clean electricity into the grid.
As she used to say for these advocacy efforts, “Energy from wind and the sun will help preserve the beauty of our mountains and keep people healthy through cleaner air too.”
Jonesborough not only has maintained its commitment to a green-power portion in electricity usage but has made additional, lighting-efficiency investments since then to trim wasteful consumption. TVA’s (belated) recognition of the town’s leadership in this way is well earned and welcome.