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West Tennessee Solar Farm Receives Environmental Approval

February 03, 2011

U.S. Dept. of Energy Issues Finding of No Significant Impact, Project Moves Forward

NASHVILLE, TN – Governor Bill Haslam and Commissioner Bill Hagerty of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced today that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has completed its environmental review for the West Tennessee Solar Farm in Haywood County and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), which means the project complies with all applicable federal regulation for environmental protection. The review was conducted under guidelines specified in the National Environmental Policy Act and was part of the requirement for utilizing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for the project. The finding allows site preparation and installation to begin on the five-megawatt solar array.

“I’m pleased the U.S. Department of Energy has cleared the way for installation of the West Tennessee Solar Farm to begin,” said Governor Haslam. “Tennessee’s commitment to building a clean energy future for our state and our nation remains strong and the development of the Solar Farm will be the next step to become the center of solar energy in the U.S. It's a tangible demonstration that jobs and investment in this fast-growing sector of our economy are welcome in Tennessee.”

“We’ve seen billions of dollars in capital investment in the solar industry alone in Tennessee,” said Commissioner Hagerty. “Coupled with the investments we’re seeing in energy efficiency, sustainable transportation and other forms of clean energy, the clean energy sector has the potential to truly become a bright spot for Tennessee in terms of job growth.”

When complete, the West Tennessee Solar Farm will sit on 200 acres of land adjacent to Interstate 40 in Haywood County and will be one of the largest solar installations in the Southeast U.S. The design for the Solar Farm calls for the installation of more than 21,000 silicon-based photovoltaic modules producing more than 7,000,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. Development of the Solar Farm is being managed by the University of Tennessee which has contracted with Chattanooga-based Signal Energy as the project’s design/build firm.

“We are excited about role the University of Tennessee will play in taking the Solar Farm from concept to reality,” said University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro. “Coupled with the innovative programs underway at the Tennessee Solar Institute, the university is well positioned to play a pivotal role in growing Tennessee’s reputation as a leader in clean energy technology. The West Tennessee Solar Farm provides a unique opportunity to produce more clean energy, support job creation and educate all citizens of Tennessee.”

In addition to the solar arrays, the Solar Farm will also be home to a welcome center in which visitors will be able to view and learn more about the capabilities of solar power generation. Approximately 9 million vehicles pass the Solar Farm annually.

The West Tennessee Solar Farm is part of the Volunteer State Solar Initiative, created to benefit the Tennessee economy by using federal ARRA dollars to create jobs and provide support to a growing solar industry. Under the VSSI, $31 million in ARRA funds will be used to install the Solar Farm and the Tennessee Solar Institute will use $23.5 million to issue grants from the Solar Opportunity Fund, a program designed to underwrite the installation of next generation energy efficiency systems by Tennessee businesses and to provide training, technology and technical assistance to companies in the solar industry value chain.  When fully implemented, programs associated with VSSI will have made possible the installation of at least 12 megawatts of renewable energy generating capacity in Tennessee. In addition to broadening the adoption of new clean energy technologies, the VSSI is also designed to facilitate the training of Tennesseans in new skills and the sharing of “best business practices” across Tennessee’s burgeoning renewable energy industry.

About the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s mission is to create higher skilled, better paying jobs for all Tennesseans. The department seeks to attract new corporate investment in Tennessee and works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth. To find out more, go to www.tn.gov/ecd or www.investtennessee.org.

About Tennessee Solar Institute

The Tennessee Solar Institute (TSI) is a center of excellence between the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory that brings together scientists, engineers and technical experts with business leaders and policymakers to help speed the deployment of solar technology. Its mission is to advance the understanding of solar innovation and to inspire new ideas that speed the development and implementation of solar-based technology in Tennessee. TSI is housed at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. For more information, visit http://solar.tennessee.edu.

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Contacts:
Laura Elkins, ECD, (615) 532-1910, laura.elkins@tn.gov
Gina Stafford, UT, (865) 974-0741, Stafford@tennessee.edu