An environmental resource for East Tennessee Businesses

April 2011 Archives

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have boosted the light-to-power conversion efficiency of photovoltaics by nearly 80 percent with the creation of a 3-D nanocone-based solar cell platform.

"To solve the entrapment problems that reduce solar cell efficiency, we created a nanocone-based solar cell, invented methods to synthesize these cells and demonstrated improved charge collection efficiency," said Jun Xu, a member of ORNL's Chemical Sciences Division and team leader on the project.

At the laboratory scale scientists established a light-to-power conversion efficiency of 3.2 percent compared to 1.8 percent efficiency of conventional planar structure of the same materials.

Key features of the solar material include its unique electric field distribution that achieves efficient charge transport; the synthesis of nanocones using inexpensive proprietary methods; and the minimization of defects and voids in semiconductors. The latter provides enhanced electric and optical properties for conversion of solar photons to electricity.


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Almost 9,000 Tennesseans are employed in energy efficiency jobs, making it the top green economic activity in the state for 2010, according to a report released last week.

greenjobs.jpgIndustries with the most green jobs are construction and manufacturing (both with 22 percent) and transportation (13 percent) and professional and technical services (13 percent).


The Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development last week released preliminary results of Tennessee's Green Jobs Report, an account of data gathered in a survey of more than 6,000 Tennessee businesses. The survey identifies occupations and training requirements within Tennessee's green economy.

Green jobs in Tennessee total around 43,800 for 2010, which does not include additional jobs coming in the next two years from new projects in the state by Hemlock Semiconductor, Wacker Chemie and Nissan.



The survey examined 10 green economic activity sectors: energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable transportation, green construction, environmental protection, agriculture and forestry, green manufacturing, recycling and waste reduction, research and consulting, and governmental and regulatory administration.





General Motors' EV1 electric car

General Motor's EV1 electric car - Image via Wikipedia

Researchers at the University of Tennessee are working to design a better, greener car as part of a competition by the Department of Energy and General Motors.

UT Knoxville has been selected to join fifteen other universities in the EcoCAR 2: Plugging into the Future Competition, a three-year collegiate engineering competition that challenges the next generation of automotive engineers to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles without compromising performance, safety, and consumer acceptability.

The design will be conducted on a Chevrolet Malibu donated by GM. GM provides production vehicles, vehicle components, seed money, technical mentoring, and operational support to EcoCAR 2. The DOE and its research and development facility, Argonne National laboratory, provide competition management, team evaluation, and technical and logistical support.

The student team, led by Butch Irick, a research professor in the College of Engineering's Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering, will explore a variety of cutting-edge clean vehicle solutions, including full-function electric, range-extended electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell technologies. They will also incorporate lightweight materials into the vehicles, improve aerodynamics and utilize alternative fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel, and hydrogen.


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TVA on track to reduce energy use

For the first time, TVA has release its scores on the Federal Office of Management and Budget scorecard on sustainability and energy performance.

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According to the report, TVA is on track to reduce the energy use of its office buildings, shops and warehouses by 30 percent by 2015 and to increase the amount of renewable energy that supports them.

TVA received favorable "green" scores in emissions reduction, energy intensity and renewable energy use. However, the report indicates a need for improvement in water use and green, sustainable buildings.

The scorecard, submitted for fiscal year 2010, describes how an agency's buildings and related operations meet guidelines for reducing their environmental impact.



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Whirlpool is aiming for a first with its $120 million new plant in Cleveland, Tenn.

The plant's construction is on track to receive LEED Gold certification -- the second-highest rating in the U.S. Green Building Council's rating system. It would be the first Whirlpool manufacturing plant in the country to be LEED certified, writes Mike Pare of the Chattanooga daily Times Free Press.

Dicky Walters, plant leader for Whirlpool's Cleveland division, said in the article building plans include using natural lighting significantly, roofing material reflecting solar energy rather than absorbing it, and water-efficient fixtures.

Read the full story "Whirlpool plant going up" at the Times Free Press
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Two new solar farms in the works

Clean Energy Pathways, Inc. and H&T Holdings have signed a letter of intent to jointly develop two one-megawatt solar farms in Tennessee.

Clean energy pathways.jpg
The first two systems will produce an estimated  $16.5 million in revenue over the next 20 years. The initial project will be located approximately 30 miles north of Chattanooga, Tenn., on 30-70 acres of land situated for maximum exposure to sunlight.

Once the site is completed, the companies also have an option to build two additional one-megawatt systems.

"This is an exciting time for our company as our solar development plans unfold," said J. Michael Parsons, CEO of Clean Energy Pathways.

"This agreement brings us another step closer to our goal of 50 megawatts of solar electric generation capacity in 2011. From an operational standpoint, this is an excellent plan. The strategy of grouping one-megawatt systems gives more flexibility for the grid. It also gets the generating capacity on line in a shorter amount of time, compared to a single large project on one piece of real estate."

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Farm-to-table is fine, but what comes next?

KELLY DiNARDO, For The Associated Press

Much has been made of the farm-to-table restaurant movement. But what happens to all the food that ends up uneaten at the table?

In what you might call a burgeoning table-to-farm movement, a small but growing number of companies are being launched around the country to answer that question, to help restaurants deal with the ecologically and economically expensive problem of food waste by composting it.

"The restaurant business is an incredibly wasteful business," says Peter Egelston, owner of Portsmouth Brewery restaurant in Portsmouth, N.H. "We generally put more food in front of people than they can eat in one sitting. If it's not going home in a doggie bag, it seems like we should send it where it will have new life."

And so two years ago Egelston's brewery began composting with the help of EcoMovement, a company that hauls food waste from about 40 restaurants in the region and takes it to be composted.

Composting -- a natural process in which food and other organic scraps are decomposed into fertile soil -- has long been a mainstay of farms and backyards. But few restaurants have the space or time to compost their own waste. And so they typically pay to have it disposed of in landfills along with the rest of their trash.

But as communities have struggled to reduce their waste, pressure has mounted on the restaurant industry to do its part.

"A few things changed," says Michael Oshman, CEO of the Green Restaurant Association. "Cities in California passed laws requiring some level of waste reduction. To attack waste reduction without looking at food is like having a heart patient come in to the doctor and not talk to them about exercise and diet. So cities like San Francisco begin composting. They demonstrate it's doable and others follow their lead."

San Francisco began a pilot composting program in 1996, which quickly expanded. In 2001, officials made composting available city-wide on a voluntary basis; it became mandatory in 2009, including for the city's more than 5,000 restaurants. Since 1996, the city has composted more than 835,000 tons of food scraps.

Since then, other cities -- including Seattle -- have passed similar laws that mandate composting. But desire isn't enough. To compost, you either need to have a place to put food waste -- and the time to tend to it -- or arrange for it to be taken to a farm or composting facility.

And that's where companies like EcoMovement come in. Rian Bedard was inspired to start the company when he moved from San Francisco to New Hampshire and realized no one was offering compost pickup. They began hauling food waste in November 2009.

Food-waste hauling remains a small industry, in part because the companies struggle with where to bring the waste. Few actually handle the composting themselves, instead serving as an intermediary.

Some, like Compost Cab in Washington, D.C., work with area farms. But that also can limit the volume and content of what can be picked up.

"There are two main constraints on a farm that you don't have on an industrial facility," says Jeremy Brosowsky, who started the company almost a year ago.

"When you're managing a small-scale operation on a farm in an urban environment you want to be respectful to your neighbors. People worry about smell and rodents. We ameliorate that by not being too big. The second constraint is just volume. Urban farms tend to be less than two acres. Composting takes about a half acre. You can't overwhelm them with volume because that takes attention away from the farming," he said.

Which is why most compost hauling companies work with commercial composting facilities, of which there are about 300 around the country.

San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels & Restaurant Group has encouraged all of their 53 restaurants -- including those outside the Bay Area -- to compost. It isn't always possible. Only 35 of their properties have programs at this time.

"The biggest challenge is finding someone who can haul it away," says Frank Kawecki, senior director of operations for Kimpton. "It's usually some guy in a truck. It's very grassroots and local."

The company's 10 restaurants in Washington use EnviRelation, a 12-person company that hauls food waste from nearly 200 offices, hotels and restaurants. Last year, the city's Kimpton properties alone composted more than 408,000 pounds of food scrap.

Despite trepidations about smell, staff training and pest nuisance, when composting is available most restaurants find that it is simple.

"It's the same waste we were putting in a dumpster," says Egelston. "It just goes in a different color bin. We've reduced our waste stream so dramatically we renegotiated our trash pickup and that offset all of the costs of the compost program. And our customers really appreciate it and that's good for business. It's not just this woolly-headed, tree-hugging idea. There's a practical use to this."

Brosowsky believes this move to compost is similar to the start of the recycling movement. In twenty years, he suspects everyone will be composting.

"Municipal composting is coming," says Brosowsky. "Farm to table is good. Farm to table back to farm is even better."

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International Recycle Symbol

Image via Wikipedia

Just in time for Earth Day, the city of Knoxville has made it easier for most residents to recycle their household waste.

Knoxville Mayor, Daniel Brown, announced Thursday the launch of the City's new household curbside recycling campaign and sign-ups are already underway. The single-stream program will take all recyclables in one container -- no sorting needed!

Initially, the program will be limited to the first 20,000 households to sign up. Households in the city limits that receive weekly garbage collection are eligible at no additional charge.

Residents participating in the Waste Connections household curbside recycling program who live in the City limits will automatically be included in the new program. Residents in the Central Business Improvement District will have single stream location options and do not need to sign up.

One downside: Apartments of more than four units are not eligible for this program but must continue to use the drop centers for their recycling needs.

After signing up, residents will receive a rolling cart in September and pick up every other week will start in October.

Participants in the program can also earn extra points at RecycleBank, a rewards program for recycling.

Sign up by visiting www.doyourpartwiththecart.com or by calling 311.
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Billion Acts of Green

"The Blue Marble" is a famous photog...

Image via Wikipedia

The first Earth Day was recognized on April 22, 1970. Since then, the annual observance has allowed individuals and organizations worldwide to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and the environment.

The Earth Day Network has designated Earth Day 2011's focus as "A Billion Acts of Green," campaign to generate a billion acts of environmental service and advocacy before global Earth Summit in Rio in 2012.

Green acts include actions from individuals, organizations or businesses. The site suggests any activity including "Earth Day events and community climate meetings to tree plantings, large-scale light bulb changes and workplace renewable energy retrofits, even simple individual gestures like riding a bike instead of driving and washing laundry in cold water."

Acts of Green can be submitted at act.earthday.org.

The site also allows users to submit an Earth Day event or search for events near them. Here are some participating Earth Day events in Tennessee.

Want to see how your lifestyle compares? Calculate your individual carbon footprint with the organization's Footprint Calculator.

Keep reading for more tips on how to go green this Earth Day.


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Thumbnail image for 2011 GoGreenET event 003.jpgBusiness people gathered Thursday at the Knoxville News Sentinel for the Knoxville Chamber's Earth Day a.m. Exchange. Photo by Leslie Karnowski, Business Journal.

More than 100 business people gathered Thursday to celebrate Earth Day and organizations that took part in the GoGreenET.com challenge.

Four organizations were honored for outstanding achievements: Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union, Community Outreach; Holiday Inn-World's Fair Park, Energy Efficiency; DTR Tennessee, Recycling/Waste Reduction; and City of Knoxville, Renewable Energy.

More than 40 businesses, nonprofit organizations and government agencies wee named Green Achievers, after taking the GoGreenET.com challenge, scoring at least one point in each category and earning a total of 30 points.
   

Related article:
Winners of the GoGreenET Business Recognition Program Announced


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Icon of Wind Turbines

Image via Wikipedia

According to Yahoo search result data, interest in solar energy far outpaces people looking for recycling information.

The average American household spends roughly $1,900 annually on energy and creates more than 26,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, according to Yahoo! Green. These high numbers and online searches this month on the site may signal a need to revisit how the basic guidelines of -reduce, reuse and recycle--can make a big difference.

This Earth Day, the three R's take a back seat to more revolutionary technology as searches on Yahoo! Green for "recycling" are down 56% this month compared to the same period in 2010, and down 93% from 2009. Consumers are more interested in solar energy and organic green living this year with searches for "solar energy" spiking 208% and "wind power" up 1,307% this month.

Searches on Yahoo! this year for "organic food" have decreased 44% when compared to the same time period in 2010, but there is an upswing this month as searches spike 8% for "organic food"

Wind and solar energy are not the only hot topic as retailers give away products and coupons this Earth Day.

Continue reading for a list of offerings from national retailers



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Melton Hill Lock and Dam on the Clinch River a...

Image of Melton Hill Lock and Dam via Wikipedia

In celebration of Earth Day, TVA will dedicate and provide tours of a series of sustainability enhancements that target renewable energy, energy efficiency and environmental stewardship throughout the Melton Hill Dam recreation and campground area.

The dedication and tours are open to the public. The event is 10:30 a.m. Friday, April 22 at Melton Hill Dam Recreation Area, 2009 Grubb Road in Lenoir City.

To create a sustainable project, TVA blended new technologies into existing infrastructure and a natural setting at the Melton Hill recreation area and campground. These enhancements include:

--Photovoltaic solar power arrays 
--A wind turbine
--Energy efficient, solar-powered LED street and path lighting
--Solar water heating in the campground bath house
--Water conservation features in restrooms
--Energy efficiency lighting control sensors
--Building materials made from coal combustion products
--Stormwater management techniques to filter runoff
--Electric vehicle chargers

According to plans released last summer, the campground was expected to be net-zero energy use.  Improvements at the site will be monitored and, if successful, the utility plans to implement them at other public areas it operates.

"As people enjoy the recreational opportunities at Melton Hill, visitors will be helping TVA test the performance of new technologies. They will also be consuming less energy and using less water than people who stayed at the campground just one season ago," said Anda Ray, senior vice president of Environment & Technology.

The site dedication is one of several ways TVA recognized Earth Day.

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Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Image via Wikipedia

Lipscomb University's Institute for Sustainable Practice is sponsoring the 2011 Green Business Summit - Innovations in Sustainability - April 21 and 22 at the Nashville Convention Center.

The program is focused on providing your organization with insights to grow your business and succeed in an increasingly "green" environment. Explore business models, practices and opportunities to help you stay competitive, improve profitability and grow market valuation.

The second day of the conference will include presentation of the 2011 Green Business Leadership Awards.

The 2011 keynote speakers are L. Hunter Lovins of Natural Capitalism Solutions and Don Moseley, Director of Sustainable Facilities for Wal-Mart. 

This year the conference will also partner with the Living Well Sustainable Marketplace going on April 22 and 23.

Attendance for both days of the summit is $295. Get a full agenda and register at the Green Business Summit website.
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NNSA celebrates Earth Week

The National Nuclear Security Administration, part of the Department of Energy, is sharing its commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency by setting up a Green Week website, reports News Sentinel writer Frank Munger on his Atomic City Underground blog.

"Investing in sustainability and energy efficiency are critical ... Earth Day is a day we can reflect on what we are doing to improve our work and environment," said Don Cook, deputy administrator of the NNSA.

Cook said personal efforts include recycling, using mass transit and taking advantage of modern facilities and equipment and best practices.

NNSA labs are are working on national environmental challenges in climate change and energy infrastructure. The organization has given out more than $150 million in energy savings performance contracts and pursued LEED certification at several facilities.

Each day, the NNSA Green Week website will focus on a different story that highlights the connection between NNSA's commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency and NNSA's efforts to invest in the future of the nuclear security enterprise, implementing President Obama's nuclear security agenda, and improving the way the enterprise does business.

The Department of Energy also operates Energy.gov and the accompanying Energy Blog year round to promote energy saving projects and investments. For consumers, it offers the Energy Savers Blog, detailing ways individuals can reduce energy consumption.
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In addition to our winning Green Achiever stories, GoGreenET also highlighted several other environmentally friendly companies and practices in the April Greater Knoxville Business Journal.

A key ingredient in everyday products from carpet to cosmetics no longer comes from an oil field but a
cornfield.
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At the Dupont Tate & Lyle Bio Products Co. plant in Loudon, production of the biomaterial known as 1,3 propanediol or Bio-PDO is expanding in response to demand for greener products, says Joseph DeSalvo, marketing director for the joint venture, which opened the plant in 2006.

Using corn sugar as a feedstock, the process emits up to 40 percent less greenhouse gases and uses up to 40 percent less energy over the life cycle of the product, according to the company.

The company has begun an expansion of the $100 million facility, which employs approximately 50 people. The plant draws its feedstock from an adjacent Tate & Lyle plant, which produces corn syrup and the glucose used for production of PDO. The expansion should be complete by the close of second quarter 2011.


Photo: A biomaterial produced at Dupont Tate & Lyle Bio Products Co. plant in Loudon is used in cosmetics, personal and home care products as a substitute for a petroleum-based ingredient. Some Method-brand cleaners contain the material. By Adam Brimer/Business Journal



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EarthFest 2011 this weekend

Earth Day is coming up next week, but you can get a head start on environmentally friendly activities this weekend.

Pellissippi State's Hardin Valley Campus is hosting the 2011 EarthFest Saturday, April 16
from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.earthfest200.jpg

EarthFest is a free, "zero-waste" event with food, fun and entertainment for the whole family, including pets, according to the official EarthFest website.

The event promotes environmental awareness, and this year's event focus is "Green it and mean it!" Workshops and activities will support the initiative by showing visitors what they can do to improve their environmental footprint.

Event officials say last year they recycled or composted over 880 lb. of materials and only 6.50 lb. went to the landfill from the entire event, which was attended by nine thousand visitors.

Several panel discussions are scheduled and vendors will be on site promoting green products and services..




Transit companies minimize petroleum

In addition to our winning Green Achiever stories, GoGreenET also highlighted several other environmentally friendly companies and practices in the April Greater Knoxville Business Journal.

Bus riders in Knoxville can't find much cleaner rides.

KAT's converted nearly 100 percent of its fleet to hybrid electric vehicles and the remainder run on clean fuels such as propane and biodiesel.

Passengers can park and ride from the new $27 million Knoxville Station, which is seeking to become certified under the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program. Green amenities include a geothermal heating and air conditioning system and a green roof planted with drought-resistent, sun-loving plants.


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Farm tour at Mountain Meadows

A single week's fruits and vegetables from com...

Image via Wikipedia

Local green-friendly professionals group Green Drinks Knoxville will hold its regular meeting 3 p.m. April 17 at Mountain Meadows Farm in Heiskell for a CSA open house and farm tour.

Mountain Meadows Farm is a family-owned operation that offers a CSA program and provides locally grown produce to several area farmers markets.

Owners say "...all  produce is grown sustainably, which means: No harmful pesticides are used.  We use only Non-GMO seed."

Reservations are required.

Learn more about the meeting and register at the Green Drinks Knoxville website.
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In early 2009 German company Wacker Chemie announced plans to build a solar plant in Tennessee.  The plant was projected to be a $1 billion investment that would create hundreds of jobs.

Now, two years later, the company has officially broken ground on the Bradley County location.

Wacker and state and local officials, including Gov. Bill Haslam, took part in the Friday groundbreaking at the 650-acre site. The facility will produce hyperpure polycrystalline silicon, the material used in many electronics and also a key ingredient in the manufacture of solar panels.

Ron Clayton reports in the News Sentinel that the plant, now valued at $1.5 billion, should open in 2014, but Rudolf Staudigl, president and CEO of parent company Wacker Chemie AG, said production for the first year has already been sold, due to high demand.

Wacker Chemical has received more than 4,000 work applications for an anticipated 650 positions at the southeast Tennessee plant, Clayton writes. Current jobs available are in human relations and engineering, with other initial hires to be about 260 employees. Wacker officials say they hope to complete hiring and begin training employees in 2013.

Read the full story, Wacker breaks ground on $1.5B Bradley County plant, on the News Sentinel website.
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Seco Tools, a manufacturer and supplier of carbide cutting tools, today installed a new 29.6kw solar PV system at its Lenoir City facility.

Seco received a federal Renewable Energy Grant for $59,061 and a $59,220 grant from the Tennessee Solar Institute for the project. The U.S. Department of Treasury Renewable Energy Grant will pay 30 percent of the total cost of a solar PV system, without any cap, while the TSI grant paid $2 per watt.

These and other incentives covered at least 60 percent of the installation's costs, according to Efficient Energy of Tennessee, the installation company for the project.

The solar power array will generate 37,067 kilowatt-hours annually. Seco expects to generate more than $7,000 through participation in the TVA Generation Partners Program, according to an EETN case study.


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One of the big winners of last week's latest round of Tennessee Solar Institute grants was a solar company named AZUR Solar USA.

AZUR received the largest local share of grant money: three grants totaling $646,000.

According to the TSI grant documents, AZUR Solar USA LLC is a "new firm located in Tennessee specializing in solar panel coatings, solar energy system design, engineering, installation, and maintenance."

AZUR current list of offices on its website include one USA location inSouth Carolina, and several in European countries.

Grant details also indicate the company "expects to create 30 new jobs" with its new Tennessee operations.

Full grant details:
--$46,050 grant: AZUR Solar USA, LLC, is a new firm located in Tennessee specializing in solar panel coatings, solar energy system design, engineering, installation, and maintenance. With this award, AZUR Solar will pursue NABCEP certification and manufacturing specific training for employees. Azur expects to create 30 jobs at its new manufacturing facility.
--$100,000 grant: AZUR Solar USA, LLC, is a new firm located in Tennessee specializing in solar panel coatings, solar energy system design, engineering, installation, and maintenance. With this award, AZUR Solar will introduce automation into its manufacturing/coating process increasing output of its solar products. Azur will sell its products in Tennessee and also expects to create 30 new jobs with this facility.
--$500,000 grant: AZUR Solar USA, LLC, is a new firm located in Tennessee specializing in solar panel coatings, solar energy system design, engineering, installation, and maintenance. With this award, AZUR Solar will replace its HVAC units (3-%-40% energy savings), install LED lights (45%-55% energy savings), and upgrade its internal air filtration system at its facility.
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It's not easy being green, and not every shade is attractive to everyone.
That's why the Greater Knoxville Business Journal and GoGreenET this month highlight the myriad types of ways to go green and to make it easier for you to find the shade that fits your organization.

The GoGreenET Business Recognition Program is an opportunity for East Tennessee businesses to share their successes in becoming more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

We asked companies to take the GoGreenET challenge by downloading a survey that includes 100-plus ways in which their business could help reduce its carbon footprint. By checking at least one item in each category and scoring at least 30 points, participating businesses become Green Achievers.

Organizations qualifying as Green Achievers also were invited to write an essay about their outstanding achievements in community outreach, energy efficiency, recycling/waste reduction and renewable energy. From those essays, four organizations were selected as outstanding examples.

Community Outreach: Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union
Energy Efficiency: Holiday Inn World's Fair Park
Recycling/Waste Reduction: DTR Tennessee
Renewable Energy: City of Knoxville


A full list of qualifying companies can be found on our Green Achievers page.

Join us for a business networking event, the GoGreenET AM Exchange, from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Thursday, April 21 at the Knoxville News Sentinel. Celebrate the achievements of these organizations, and learn more about making your own workplace greener. Please RSVP by calling the Knoxville Chamber at 637-4550 or visit www.knoxvillechamber.com and click Chamber Events.
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TSI Logo CYMK.jpgEarlier this week, the Tennessee Solar Institute announced $7.27 million in Solar Innovation Grant awards to companies across Tennessee in its second round of funding.

Awarded projects within the Knoxville-Oak Ridge area accounted for 17 of the 59 projects and the total grant awards to local companies totaled $2.14 million, according to Innovation Valley.

When combined with the first round of grant awards announced last December, the $14.5 million in grant funding will leverage more than $14 million in additional investments, officials said.


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