Governor Phil Bredesen’s statewide plan that prioritizes energy savings, creates or retains jobs, increases the use of renewable energy and reduces carbon pollution got a lift from the U.S. Department of Energy on Wednesday.
DOE Secretary Steven Chu confirmed funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support the Volunteer State Solar Initiative in Tennessee.
“This funding will provide an important boost for the state’s economy, help to put Americans back to work, and move us toward energy independence,” Chu said. “It reflects our commitment to support innovative state and local strategies to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy while insisting that taxpayer dollars be spent responsibly.”
Bredesen said he was gratified by the Obama administration’s support.
“Tennessee has enjoyed considerable success in recruiting solar jobs to our state,” the governor said, citing recent multi-billion-dollar investments by solar-industry firms Hemlock Semiconductor and Wacker Chemie AG. “Our new initiative, funded by the Recovery Act, will help ensure that we have bright prospects for continued clean-energy job growth.”
Tennessee is receiving 40 percent of its total State Energy Program (SEP) Recovery Act funding immediately. The initial 10 percent of total funding was previously available to support planning activities; the remaining 50 percent of funds will be released once the state meets reporting, oversight, and accountability milestones required by the Recovery Act.
After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive $31 million in additional funding, for a total of nearly $62.5 million.
According to Bredesen, Tennessee will use its State Energy Program Recovery Act funds to establish the Volunteer State Solar Initiative, a comprehensive solar energy and economic development program, focusing on job creation, education, renewable power production, and technology commercialization.
The initiative consists of two projects: The Tennessee Solar Institute at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which will focus on industry partnerships to improve the affordability and efficiency of solar products; and the West Tennessee Solar Farm, a five-megawatt, 20-acre power generation facility in Haywood County that will be one of the largest installations in the Southeast and serve as a demonstration tool for education and economic development.