(WBIR - Oliver Springs) The Buffalo Mountain Wind Farm in Anderson County stands as one of TVA's most visible power plant operations. The twirling turbines along the mountain top can be seen from dozens of miles away.
The chance to see the turbines up close is uncommon as TVA restricts access to the wind farm. Monday morning TVA provided a tour of the site for a relatively rare first-hand look at the operation.
"We get tons of requests to see the wind farm all the time, so today was just a day when we decided to give groups and the media a tour," said Patty West, TVA's director of renewable energy programs. "We want people to get a tangible look at what where their renewable energy comes from."
The site at Buffalo Mountain has been a source of fuel since 1904 when miners began digging beneath the surface for coal. Since 2000, the air above the mountain has fueled a steady rotation of power.
"This is the first and I believe still the only wind farm in the Southeast. It's definitely still the only utility-scale wind farm in Tennessee," said Ed Stephens, a manager for TVA's renewable energy programs. "We've seen tremendous changes in wind energy and renewable energy. In 2000 we say this was just a 'wind garden' when we started with three turbines."
Now Buffalo Mountain is a full blown wind farm with 18 turbines. The original three turbines installed by TVA are currently not operational. The remaining 15 turbines in operation today were completed in 2004 and are owned by a company called Invenergy. TVA has a contract to pay Invenergy for the electrical output produced by its turbines.
"Basically, the wind turbine has three main parts. The tower, which is the lower section. The horizontal piece at the top is what they call the nacelle. That's what really operates everything. And then obviously, you've got the blades."
The towers are completely hollow inside other than electrical cables that carry the electricity produced by the turbines. That electricity is stored and can be purchased by environmentally conscientious customers through their utility companies.
"For as little as four dollars a month you can buy a block of renewable energy," said West. "It just allows customers a choice to support renewable energy right here in the Valley."
The Buffalo Mountain Wind Farm produces enough electricity for about 3,400 homes in the Tennessee Valley. While that is a very small amount in the grand scheme of TVA's power production, the turning blades on the mountain top manage to cut a little bit of carbon out of TVA's electrical diet.
"If you compare this site to other places out in the Midwest or Texas where they have tremendously large wind farms that look like a matrix, this is not approaching that level of power. In our area and topography, we have to be on the mountain tops to take advantage of the wind. But for this area, this has been a good site here at Buffalo Mountain," said Stephens.