An environmental resource for East Tennessee Businesses

July 2010 Archives

News Sentinel business writer Roger Harris let us know about this  biofuel seminar taking place next week -- he has more information about the event on his Rant$ and Rave$ blog.

To raise awareness of clean energy technologies and potential job opportunities, the Center for Workforce Education at Walters State Community College in Morristown is holding a seminar next week on switchgrass production and bioenergy.

The event is at 9 a.m. Tuesday, July 27, in Room 110 of the Clifford "Bo" Henry Technology Building.

The seminar's presenter, Dr. Sam Jackson, is also involved with an ongoing University of Tennessee project to grow and improve switchgrass for commercial use.

The University of Tennessee Biofuels Initiative is monitoring more than 1,000 acres of improved varieties of switchgrass for biofuel research.

The planting is part of a US DOE project designed to help make bioenergy production from renewable resources more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable. Dr. Sam Jackson and Dr. Nicole Labbe, UT biofuels researchers, are heading up the project team that also includes UT Extension biofuels specialists and partners at Ceres and Dupont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol. Together with farmers from nine east Tennessee counties, the team has planted approximately 1000 acres of improved varieties of switchgrass, according to a press release.

Throughout the year, the growth and yields from these fields will be compared to the growth and yields of a different 1,000 acres planted with the standard switchgrass variety. These acres have been established on private farms as part of the UTBI farmer incentive program that now totals nearly 6,000 acres of switchgrass.<

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Knoxville chamber members have the opportunity to network with Japanese business leaders keenly interested in developing opportunities in the energy and environmental sectors

The Industrial Exchange with executives from Kitakyushu, Japan will take place on from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on July 29.

The event is part of the Chattanooga Chamber's Regional Industry Tie-Up Program, which is designed to foster trade and interaction between the region and Kitakyushu. Officials from Kitakyushu, an environmentally advanced city, will share their knowledge of creating a low-carbon society.

The program will also help to implement business-matching for companies, utilizing the Japan External Trade Organization's support system.

For more information, or to register, visit the Knoxville Chamber website.

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A new solar farm will enable Knox County officials to harvest sunshine to meet the hot water demands at the county's 1,036-bed detention facility. Officials say the new solar thermal system, one of the nation's largest for domestic hot water according to FLS Energy ─ the solar company with which Trane worked on the project ─ will save $60,000 a year in natural gas expenses and reduce CO2 emissions by 174 tons annually.071610solar1_t607.jpg

The solar hot water installation features 300 solar collectors and produces and stores nearly 14,000 gallons of hot water a day for domestic use. Funding for the $1.88 million solar farm was provided through the US Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program.

News Sentinel writer Nash Armstrong attended the facility's grand opening last Thursday and has more information, including diagrams of the facility in his article at knoxnews.

Photo: Chet Hunt, of Hunt & Associates, gets a close look of the new solar panel farm at the Knox County Detention Center on Thursday. The farm is one of the largest solar thermal systems for domestic use in the nation.Photo by Michael Patrick/News Sentinel
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The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation are partnering to sponsor five green certification workshops across the state, starting next week. The workshops are part of Tennessee's Sustainable Tourism initiative.

The workshops will facilitate discussions and solicit partner input regarding the development of a state green certification program for the tour and travel industry. In addition, the events will provide continued sustainable tourism resources, case studies, best practices and access to leading experts, according to a press release.

The first workshop will be held July 21 at Hilton Garden Inn in Gatlinburg
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News Sentinel writer Larisa Brass reports that more changes to the Generation Partners program will allow larger-scale solar projects across the state to receive existing incentives for renewable power generation for now.

TVA announced Tuesday that customers planning projects between 400 kilowatts and 1 megawatt in generation capacity have until late August to apply for the incentives, which pay for electricity generated by customer-owned solar, wind and biomass power generation projects.

How TVA will handle larger projects after that is still under consideration.

Under the new guidelines, TVA will avoid a 200-megawatt, $50 million cap under the pilot program by providing the same incentives as Generation Partners but under individual power purchase agreements that won't encroach on limits of the renewable incentive program. Application and approval procedures will be the same as Generation Partners, TVA spokesman John Trawick said.

After Aug. 31, TVA officials will evaluate how to move forward with larger renewable projects, possibly creating a separate program for them, he said.

See the full story at The News Sentinel

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Franklin Woods Community Hospital, which officially opened Monday, hopes to be the first hospital in the state with LEED accreditation, say officials. The facility meets specifications set forth by the U.S. Green Building Council, and is currently under consideration for silver-level LEED certification.

Johnson City Press reporter Teresa Hicks gave some insight into the hospital's green options during a public tour held last week.

The hospital boasts five healing gardens, large windows and construction included natural building products like cork.  A tree grows through the lobby, reports Hicks.

"Even out here in the parking lot, we're working to encourage green behavior with special parking spaces for low-emission vehicles and carpooling spaces," says David Nicely, the new facility's chief executive officer.

The building is also built to conserve electricity and water, including using lights with motion sensors that turn off when light is not needed.

Read the full story at the Johnson City Press.

UPDATE: Writer Larisa Brass has more details about the hospital in her Green Report featured in the September Greater Knoxville Business Journal.

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The State Building Commission has approved Chattanooga-based Signal Energy as the design/build contractor for the West Tennessee Solar Farm to be located along Interstate 40 in Haywood County. 

The proposed five-megawatt, 30-acre power generation facility is part of Governor Phil Bredesen's Volunteer State Solar Initiative, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and will be one of the largest solar installations in the Southeast, according to a press release.


"The West Tennessee Solar Farm is a significant step forward for the development of the clean energy industry in Tennessee," said Governor Bredesen.  "Through the Volunteer State Solar Initiative we are supporting the manufacturing and installation sectors of the solar industry and creating new jobs and opportunities for Tennesseans.  In the long run we are strengthening Tennessee's reputation as a national clean energy leader and solar power hub."


Metropulse has an update on our Business in the Green winner, Green Car and Courier.

Green Car and Courier won the $10,000 prize in April for owner Chris King's idea to add bicycle delivery service for downtown Knoxville and the University of Tennessee to his current vehicle fleet, which are all converted to run on alternative fuels.

Writer Rose Kennedy says King plans to launch fleet of bike couriers for downtown deliveries in two weeks.

They'll cover the acreage from Market Square/Gay Street to the far West side of the UT campus, and over to Fourth and Gill. When a delivery involves a business beyond that range, the bikes will bring it to the perimeter of the downtown area, where a van or town car will take over. No vehicles will be used downtown unless a delivery won't fit on a bike.

"I'm an environmentalist," King says, "and I'm also a capitalist. The bikes will save fuel costs like crazy."

See the full story at Metropulse.

Knox Heritage is partnering with the City of Knoxville's Solar America program to install solar technology on its latest restoration project, a two-story, four-bedroom vintage house built in 1888, reports Amy McRary of the News Sentinel.

Knox Heritage hopes energy measures installed in the structure earn the property LEED for Homes certification.

The renovation blends modern energy-saving measures with vintage, recycled elements. Two solar energy devices will be installed to generate electricity and hot water. Solar-generating film is hidden on the building's standing seam metal roof, maintaining the traditional look of the house.

Other measures include foam insulation around new energy-efficient windows, R-38 insulation in the attic and cellulose insulation in walls.

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory will monitor the house's energy use for a year as part of a regional study.

Open houses and demonstrations will highlight the marriage of vintage architecture and green technology. Those events include a 1-5 p.m. July 17 open house.

For more information and photos of the home see the full News Sentinel Article.

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Earlier this month, Natural Energy Group began construction of Tennessee's first one-megawatt solar system on five acres in east Knox County. However, the future of the project, and others, is uncertain, due to TVA's recent re-evaluation of the Generation Partners program, News Sentinel reporter Larisa Brass reports in a recent story.


TVA has reinstated Generation Partners for renewable power installations of 200 kilowatts or less, but it still is evaluating what to do with larger systems, four of which the federal utility already had approved and a number of which are in the pipeline.

Under the existing system of incentives set up under TVA's Generation Partners program and through federal grants and tax incentives, the Natural Energy Group had looked for a 10-year payback period for its megawatt system, Brass reports. Now, they're not sure what to expect, said Harvey Abouelata, vice president of sales and marketing at Powell solar power system design and installation firm Efficient Energy of Tennessee, with which the Natural Energy Group has common ownership.

Efficient Energy is also working with Wampler's Farm Sausage in Lenoir City to install 500-kilowatt solar system this year followed by a one-megawatt biomass system next year, both of which would depend on Generation Partners credits to help finance the projects.

Several more projects are under discussion with potential customers including an airport and a property developer in Jackson, Tenn., looking to renovate a factory into green office space.

Photo: As this one megawatt solar station in Knox County takes shape, the project's investors wait to see if this will be their first and last investment in large-scale solar power production in Tennessee. Photo by Michael Patrick.

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Boomsday competes to go green

Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corp. wants to make Knoxville's annual Boomsday Festival more environmentally friendly with the help of a $50,000 grant.

Boomsday is competing nationally in the Pepsi Refresh Project, which awards grants to ideas Americans select in open online voting. The Boomsday Going Green proposal is in the category for "The Planet."

"This grant will help make recycling easier for festival-goers and keep Volunteer Landing and Neyland Drive clean and environmentally friendly," Rachael Oberman, director of community outreach at the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation, said.

Goals are to increase awareness to the 400,000 people in attendance about being responsible and learning to recycle. Some plans for the grant money are to purchase recycle bins, recycle bin bags that are made from recycled material and encourage vendors to use eco-friendly products.

To learn more or to vote for the project, visit Boomsday's project entry.

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Pellissippi State is offering Solar Photovoltaics Technology, a series of three classes that begin July 12 at the Pellissippi Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

"Whether you're a homeowner who is considering installing a solar panel system or you want to take the first step toward a green job, this series will help you make an informed decision," said Brad Coburn, director of Industrial and Contract Training for Business and Community Services.

The classes are Math for Solar ($99), Electricity for Solar ($99) and Photovoltaic System Design and Installation ($799).

The first two are prerequisites for Photovoltaic System Design and Installation.

"The final class will prepare you for a career in solar photovoltaic technology," Coburn said, "and that includes preparing you to take the NABCEP [North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners] exam." The college is a provider of the NABCEP entry-level exam.

To find out more or to register, call Business and Community Services at (865) 649-6663.

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Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz is beginning a solar industry briefing series, starting with an event July 14 8-9:30 a.m.on Private Financing for the Solar Industry.


• Jeff Mastroleo, Senior Vice President and Commercial Relationship Manager, First Tennessee Bank  will discuss how banks evaluate the viability of credit requests.
• James C. Phillips Jr., Chief Financial Officer, XMi Holdings, Inc. will address factors that venture capitalists consider when investing in a solar business.
• Lauren W. Anderson, Of Counsel, Baker Donelson will cover legal issues related to bank and venture capital financing for start-up and early stage solar companies.

The event is live in Nashville but will be broadcast in the Knoxville office too. Interested? Contact Laura Ellis at 615.726.5550 or

Topics at future briefings in the series will include public funding and government incentive programs, contract issues, site selection and environmental considerations, a legislative update and intellectual property matters.

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MetroPulse's Rikki Hall reviews TVA's suspension of its Generation Partners program and lays the cause primarily at the feet of a planned Knoxville solar installation built strictly to generate electricity to sell back to the utility.
Efficient Energy of Tennessee, a 10-employee Knoxville company founded by Robbie Thomas, plans a 1-magawatt solar array on six acres near Strawberry Plains. TVA's pricing combined with federal incentives will make the generation facility profitable, according to the article.
New TVA guidelines, expected to be adopted by distributors by July 1, will likely preclude any future generation facilities.
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