TVA showcases Melton Hill Dam enhancements

6:44 PM, Apr 22, 2011   |    comments
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The Tennessee Valley Authority's Melton Hill Dam is nearing its 50th birthday, and, for the past 30 years or so, the Colclasures have been there to celebrate.

"This is our great place, I mean, we spend anniversaries out here because it's just a great resource," Sharon Colclasure said.

She and her husband have watched the recreation area change over the years, recalling how she used to be able to run across the dam. 

Of course, that era is now long gone, and it seems a new era is underway.

On Friday, in honor of Earth Day, TVA unveiled the new ways it plans to both create energy and use less of it at Melton Hill Dam.

"What we're hoping is that this type of sustainable recreation raises people's awareness on how we need to protect our natural resources," said Anda Ray, TVA's senior vice president of environment and technology.

TVA installed a solar flare near the dam and several more solar panels at the overlook.

There's also a 70-foot wind turbine, which generates up to 2,000 kilowatt hours of clean and renewable energy each year.

Campers will now save energy by using low-flow sinks and showerheads, waterless urinals, dual-flush toilets, and water heated by solar thermal systems on the roof.

Visitors also will now walk along pathways paved with bricks made from coal ash waste and step inside buildings roofed with shingles made from the waste.

Those who drive electric vehicles can now "fill up" at one of the four charging stations there.

"TVA has a vision to be the leader in clean energy and clean air and low-cost and affordable, so we took those areas and focused it on our natural resources, our stewardship responsibilities, so we've been able to combine the technologies of energy-efficiency, which is helping our electricity users use the product more wisely, renewable energy, which is cleaner, and bring that to the natural resources area, to the area where we provide benefits to the public and the public lands that we serve, and so it was a natural fit to take TVA's expertise on the energy side and bring it to the stewardship side, which helps us raise the values and public benefits of managing these federal lands," Ray said.

The project cost about $500,000, and officials expect to see the payback within the next five to ten years. And that estimate includes the extra maintenance the fixtures will need.

TVA will also use the site as a test area, of sorts, to determine which way of producing power works best. Officials also hope that information can be passed along to others looking to create the same types of sustainable recreation areas.

So, the goal is two-fold - to create renewable energy and to use less of it.

When there aren't many visitors and power production exceeds usage, any extra power goes back to the grid. That will be evidenced by meters moving in reverse, which happened on both Thursday and Friday.

"Providing a facility like this where people can get up close and personal takes away the mystery of it, and we hope that this will encourage not only public recreation areas but help take the mystery and enable other people to install renewable energy in their homes and their businesses by being able to have this experience and exposure," Ray said.

Now, visitors to the recreation area can not only learn about saving energy, they can do it, too.

"It's always been a great place to come because they keep it so clean out here, and it's always neat, but now, you know, you feel like you're really doing something, being energy-efficient," Colclasure said. "I think that's something we all have to be aware of, so we love it."

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