HOLLYWOOD, Ala. — An alternative energy company says it wants to buy TVA’s unfinished Bellefonte Nuclear Plant for $38 million cash. But the federal utility says the upcoming plant sale won’t work that way.

Phoenix Energy of Nevada said Tuesday it made the offer in a letter to the Tennessee Valley Authority. Aside from upfront money, the company says it would pay TVA 10 percent of net profits annually until the utility’s debt on the plant is paid off.

But TVA spokesman Scott Fieldler says the north Alabama site will be sold by auction, and the process of qualifying bidders hasn’t even started.

Fiedler says law requires that TVA sell by auction since Bellefonte is now considered surplus property.

TVA says it has spent more than $4 billion at Bellefonte without completing it.