Governor Phil Bredesen today proposed the Volunteer State Solar Initiative, a comprehensive solar-energy and economic-development program that will use up to $62.5 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to advance job creation, education, research, and renewable-power production in Tennessee. (Audio File
In announcing the new initiative, Bredesen was joined by legislative leaders and key partners including Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and the University of Tennessee (UT). Support was registered from Washington, D.C., by members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation, including U.S. House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon and Congressman John Tanner, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Subject to approval by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Tennessee General Assembly, the proposed initiative consists of two closely related projects:
• The Tennessee Solar Institute at UT and ORNL, which will focus on basic science and industry partnerships to improve the affordability and efficiency of solar products; and
• The West Tennessee Solar Farm near Brownsville, a five-megawatt 20-acre power generation facility at the Haywood County industrial megasite that will be one of the largest installations in the Southeast and serve as a demonstration tool for educational, research and economic-development purposes.
The West Tennessee Solar Farm will be located at the new Haywood County industrial megasite in a partnership with TVA, the nation’s largest public power company. Under a preliminary agreement, TVA will purchase power generated by the Solar Farm at a renewable-energy price. Proceeds from power sales will be reinvested in the site for maintenance, expansion and improvement.
From an economic-development standpoint, the Solar Farm will be a unique asset to help market rural Haywood County to new industry, including renewable-energy product and equipment manufacturers that may be considering expanding in Tennessee.
Moreover, the farm will serve as a showcase for Tennessee-made solar products and components, such as panels assembled by Sharp Solar Energy Solutions Group, which operates a nearby manufacturing facility in Memphis, and glass produced by AGC Flat Glass, which has a longstanding manufacturing presence in Northeast Tennessee.
Additionally, the farm will include materials produced by more recent entrants to the Volunteer State, including Hemlock Semiconductor and Wacker Chemie AG, both producers of polycrystalline silicon, a key precursor element in photovoltaic solar panels. Product orders will represent a boost in short-term production for manufacturers such as Sharp and AGC Flat Glass and result in downstream economic activity associated with the installation.
In addition to supporting the Solar Institute’s research mission, the Solar Farm will serve as an educational site for students and the public. The farm, which will be located at a site to be determined along Interstate 40, will be Tennessee’s largest solar installation to date and one of the largest in the Southeast. Demonstrating the zero-carbon production of electricity on a highly visible and significant scale is expected to encourage future renewable-energy interest and investments.