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Chattanooga contractor will build West Tenn. solar farm

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."


The Department of Economic and Community Development has contracted with the University of Tennessee to oversee planning, operation and management of the West Tennessee Solar Farm. The Farm will consist of over 20,000 high efficiency silicon-based photovoltaic modules in a 5 MW configuration, expected to produce more than 7,000 megawatt hours of electricity annually. Installation of the solar modules is expected to begin in October 2010 with completion the following spring.

UT selected Signal Energy following a competitive request-for-proposal process. Signal Energy is a full service design/build  contractor providing engineering, procurement and construction services for renewable energy projects across North America. As a subsidiary of EMJ corporation, Signal Energy is the renewable energy arm of one of the nation's largest general contractors.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation will also build an education and welcome center at the Solar Farm which will serve as an educational facility for the public and students to learn about renewable energy.  The Solar Farm will utilize commercially available power generation technology, but may also test new technology under real world conditions.

The Volunteer State Solar Initiative is a comprehensive solar energy and economic development program focusing on job creation, education, renewable power production and technology commercialization and is being established using $62.5 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding received by ECD. The Initiative consists of two components, the West Tennessee Solar Farm and the Tennessee Solar Institute at UT.

The Tennessee Solar Institute is a center of excellence bringing together scientists, engineers and technical experts with business leaders and policymakers to help speed the improvement and deployment of solar photovoltaic technology.  The Institute has also created the "Solar Opportunity Fund" to underwrite a series of Solar Installation and Innovation grants.


The Institute began accepting applications on June 21, 2010 for the Solar Installation Grants available to Tennessee businesses to assist in the purchase and installation of small-scale photovoltaic solar systems on or adjacent to existing non-residential buildings or structures. A total of $9 million in Installation Grants of up to $245,000 is available to companies on a first come, first served basis.


The Institute's Solar Innovation Grants are designed to encourage the development of Tennessee's solar industry and help qualifying Tennessee solar industry firms seeking technical assistance, facility or process improvements, and workforce development.  The program is intended to accelerate market transformation toward renewable energy and encourage energy efficiency and conservation.

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