The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) recently announced an initiative to partner with communities in portions of the seven-state region and help provide equitable access to technology.
TVA said its Connected Communities will fund several proposed pilot projects that leverage cutting-edge technologies to address select challenges, including broadband access, environmental risk monitoring, digital literacy training and next-generation career options. Community-driven data will be used to identify the gaps and populations without equitable access.
The selected projects -- chosen by local governments, power companies and community-based organizations -- will share more than $3 million in grant funding from TVA in 2022 and 2023.
TVA said that the Connected Communities initiative aligns with TVA’s “Energy System of the Future” and plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
In February, the TVA Board of Directors approved exploration of advanced nuclear technology as part of its development of technologies to support its aspirational goal of a net-zero carbon energy future.
Other technologies TVA is exploring include next-generation energy storage, carbon capture, new hydroelectric pumped storage, and hydrogen.
TVA also continues to expand its renewable energy portfolio, including the targeted addition of up to 10,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2035.
More than 40 organizations applied for funding during the initial call for pilot projects, with each selected project supporting at least one of the three focus areas of the TVA Connected Communities initiative:
- Equitable Access to Services: Services through broadband, modern technology and the knowledge and empowerment to use it;
- Economic Empowerment: Economic security and the ability to contribute to a modern, 21st Century economy to the best of their ability;
- Energy & Environmental Justice: A healthy environment and reliable, affordable and clean energy.
The nine pilot projects currently under review by the TVA Connected Communities initiative are:
- Chattanooga, Tennessee/Connectivity and Health in Orchard Knob: A Smart Community Model for Equitable Access to Services for the 21st Century: Bringing together expanded public Wi-Fi, digital literacy training, digital resources, home weatherization and telehealth to residents of Orchard Knob, a neighborhood of Chattanooga;
- Cheatham County, Tennessee/Economic Solutions Through Solar Innovation: Constructing a solar pavilion at Sycamore High School to support the development of a solar energy Career and Tech Education program and introducing solar science to students;
- Columbus, Mississippi/ACTNow (Access, Connectivity, Tools): Developing a digital literacy training program for Columbus Housing Authority residents that provides an opportunity for those who complete the training to earn a Wi-Fi hotspot and laptop of their own;
- Knoxville, Tennessee/Alerting Elders and Trusted Social Networks Living in Environmental Justice Communities About Indoor and Outdoor Risks to Their Health: Developing an environmental risk monitoring system to alert elders and their support networks of potentially hazardous environmental conditions;
- Knoxville, Tennessee/Building the Future of East Tennessee's Workforce: Creating Pathways for Early Learners to the Skills, Jobs, and Opportunities in Our Region: Producing a video series and educational materials to increase awareness of vocational and STEM careers, aimed at kindergarten through 8th grade students and airing on PBS of East Tennessee.
- Knoxville, Tennessee/Community Connections: Tech Upgrades at City of Knoxville Recreation Centers: Improving 15 community centers to provide residents access to high-technology study spaces, computers and improved Wi-Fi;
- Lynnville, Elton, and Minor Hill, Tennessee/Community Hotspots: Installing public Wi-Fi access points in communities’ downtown areas;
- Murfreesboro, Tennessee/The Power of Connectivity: Providing Wi-Fi Access and Education to New Affordable Housing Projects: Developing additional wireless infrastructure and basic digital literacy classes for residents as part of the ongoing renovation of several properties of the Murfreesboro Housing Authority; and
- Water Valley, Mississippi/Base Camp Coding Academy Phase 2: Expanding an existing software development training program to support non-traditional students.
TVA is working with these communities on the pilot projects, contributing 70 percent of the project’s total costs. The pilot teams are funding 30 percent.
The pilot projects will be awarded funding after successful completion of required reviews and work on the projects is expected to begin this summer.
To learn more about TVA’s Connected Communities initiative, including resources and tools for communities to implement their own Connected Communities initiatives, visit tva.com/connectedcommunities.