Tennessee won the go-ahead today to spend $62 million in federal economic stimulus money on two solar energy projects, giving new impetus to Gov. Phil Bredesen’s efforts to attract green-collar jobs to this state.
Bredesen announced the U.S. Energy Department’s approval at his annual conference for economic development officials at the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center.
The governor said he hopes the projects — a solar research institute in Knoxville and a demonstration farm for solar products in Haywood County in West Tennessee — will encourage private investment in clean technologies in this state. He pointed to Hemlock Semiconductor and Wacker Chemical — two companies attracted to Tennessee this year — as examples of the kind of industries he's trying to recruit. Both make polysilicon, the basic component of solar cells.
"While there is no silver bullet that will revitalize Tennessee’s economy, when viewed in the aggregate,” he said, “these investments in the clean energy economy are beginning to grab the attention of policy makers, corporate executives and venture capitalists who will help drive the clean technology revolution in this country and help Tennessee bounce back strong when the recession ends.”
The Energy Department approval for the state's solar projects ends three months of negotiations with the Bredesen administration. Department officials were concerned, in part, that stimulus funds might to go to pay for unproven technologies. But the approval was always expected, and Bredesen said the state was not forced to make major changes in its proposals.
“I’m gratified by the news out of Washington not only because it allows us to move forward on these two very important projects, but because I believe the Solar Institute and the Solar Farm can be real catalysts for corporate investment in Tennessee,” Bredesen said.