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Tennessee to Develop Solar Institute With Federal Stimulus Funds

July 01, 2009

Using $62.5 million earmarked from the state energy program federal grant provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Tennessee will create a solar institute, a solar farm five-megawatt power generation demonstration project, and implement additional renewable energy activities as part of the Volunteer State Solar Initiative approved last month by lawmakers.

Gov. Phil Bredesen first announced plans for the solar initiative in his state of the state address earlier this year (see the Feb. 25, 2009 issue of the Digest) and released further details in May. Under the plan, a Tennessee Solar Institute at the University of Tennessee (UT) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory will be established to focus on basic science and industry partnerships to improve the affordability and efficiency of solar products, according to the governor's office. Additionally, the state will acquire 1,700 acres for the Haywood County industrial megasite to house a 20-acre power generation facility that will serve as a demonstration tool for educational, research and economic development purposes. Although the state will own the solar farm, the Tennessee Valley Authority could own some of the equipment within the farm, reports the Jackson Sun.

The governor also signed last month the Clean Energy Future Act of 2009, encouraging high-wage job growth and creation in the clean energy technology sector by extending the state's existing emerging industry tax credit to qualified businesses in this sector.

The FY10 budget signed by Gov. Bredesen reflects a 10.1 percent reduction in state appropriations from revenues and reserves from last fiscal year and includes a provision that requires the governor to make $55 million in impoundments by Oct. 1 if state revenues fail to meet state projections, reports the Knox News.

UT research initiatives are slated to receive $11.2 million in FY10, including $5.3 million to provide third-year, non-recurring operational funds for the UT Biofuels Center, about the same as last fiscal year. A component of a comprehensive plan for Tennessee's alternative fuel strategy, the facility is capable of producing five million gallons of biomass-based ethanol per year, according to the governor's office.

The higher education budget includes $8.3 million for the UT Space Institute, slightly less than the FY09 appropriation of $8.4 million, for graduate study, research and assistance to private companies in aerospace engineering. To support the state's 26 Centers of Excellence, the budget includes $19.6 million in FY10 funding, slightly less than the $19.95 million FY09 appropriation.

The Tennessee Job Skills Program will receive $9.3 million in FY10, the same amount as last year. These grants are used to create and retain high-skill, high-wage jobs in technology, skilled manufacturing and emerging occupations.

The FY10 Appropriations Act is available at: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=SB2355.