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Socially Equal Energy Efficient Development, or SEEED, has backing of the Knoxville city officials and TVA to weatherize about 1,300 homes.

Next week the organization will present a workshop 6:30 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Morningside Community Center in East Knoxville to tell people how weatherization can help lower their utility bills.

SEEED, which runs career-training programs for youth, will be canvassing neighborhoods and handing out LED light bulbs with volunteer support.

The SEEED program comes out of an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, which found in 2013 that emergency utility payments go to roughly 10,000 households annually in the community, a cost that can run up to $5 million.

Those interested in the meeting or getting involved with SEEED can call the main office at 865-766-5185, or visit seeedknox.com.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has new funds aimed at helping clean energy entrepreneurs get their product to market.

The lab received $5.6 million -- the largest of five awards -- as part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Small Business Vouchers Pilot.

The program earmarked a total of $20 million in a public-private partnership that will connect clean energy innovators across the country with scientists, engineers and facilities at national laboratories.

The funding will be used to provide vouchers of $50,000 to $300,000 per small business to initiate collaborative research projects or get technical assistance.

DOE estimates more than 100 businesses will receive the funds when the program opens later this summer. Businesses interested in the program can email the Lab Impact Initiative at eerelabimpact@ee.doe.gov.

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Knoxville will host the fourth annual Tennessee Bike Summit April 23-24 at the Knoxville Convention Center.

Cyclists, planners, engineers and government officials will gather to attend sessions and workshops on advocacy, education, planning and infrastructure.

Ahead of that event, the city has released a list of 20 bicycle-friendly improvements it's prioritizing for the next few years -- out of 120 that were recommended in a recent study.

Topping the list is a plan to widen the stretch of Chapman Highway that cyclists take to get across the Henley Bridge to UT or downtown destinations and add a dedicated bike lane.

Photo: University of Tennessee student Christopher Allen bikes on the sidewalk en route to campus last week on Chapman Highway. The city has completed a study recommending  upgrades to Knoxville's bicycle infrastructure, including a $700,000 Chapman Highway project the city hopes to fund with a federal grant distributed through TDOT. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

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Visit the University of Tennessee's SPECTRUM solar energy exhibit Saturday at Knoxville Center Mall and learn the ins and outs of solar energy, courtesy of UT, the city of Knoxville, Aries Energy and TN-SCORE.

From 10:30 a.m.-noon March 14, ARiES Energy will present information about installing solar panels for residential and commercial customers, including the process, pay-back period and impact on electricity bills.

The exhibit is on the mall's second level, next to JC Penney.

Register with Eventbrite

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This year the USDA's Rural Energy for America Program wants to spend more than $2 million in East Tennessee on its program to help deliver technology and economic opportunity to the rural parts of the country.

"It will be the most that we've ever had as far as funding we've actually got to spend," said Dan Beasley, director of business and cooperative programs for USDA Rural Development in a recent interview with Business Journal reporter Larisa Brass.

Last year the office had only 23 applications for the program, which provides up to 24 percent of project costs in grants and up to 75 percent in loan guarantees for renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects to rural small businesses and agriculture-based businesses in either rural or urban settings. For more information on applications, see the USDA's Tennessee state page.

Projects in 14 East Tennessee counties have utilitized the program, including Holden Nursery in Mascot.

The owners used funding from the REAP program, along with TVA's Green Power Providers incentives, to install a solar generating system on their property.

Owner Kim Holden says the system pays for the company's electric bill and can produce far more in the summer.



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Mawuli Tse has already brought solar power to hundreds of residents in urban Ghana and other African countries.

Now thanks to a $100,000 grant, he's creating a solar product for street vendors in rural areas, reports Jamie McGee of the Tennessean.

The device uses solar panels, which can be attached to umbrellas often used by the vendors, to power mobile charging stations for customers.

Vendors may also use the system for light, allowing them to stay open later or for use at homes, Tse said.

Read the full story with video at The Tennessean: Nashvillian's solar device helps vendors in Africa

Photo:Mawuli Tse detaches a portable solar panel from the top of an vendor umbrella at his home in Nashville on Friday.(Photo: Jae S. Lee / The Tennessean)

Westminster Presbyterian Church in Knoxville is one of the first 20 congregations to be designated a Certified Cool Congregation by Interfaith Power and Light for its energy efficiency efforts.

The certification is a culmination of 20 years of effort in the church's "Creation Care" initiative to reduce its environmental impact, writes Larisa Brass in the Knoxville News Sentinel.

The congregation has upgraded the church's windows, lights and installed an energy management system that reduced its carbon emissions by 4.5 tons.

The church is also looking for ways to save energy that help it financially as well. A recent installation of a 5kw solar array added to the other upgrades mean the church saves about 30 percent on energy costs.

The solar installation was installed with a $16,000 grant through Knoxville's Solar America Cities program and offsets 5 percent of the church's electricity needs.

English: Compact fluorescent light bulb

English: Compact fluorescent light bulb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

KUB small business customers averaging 50 kw or less can still take advantage of a free lighting assessment program with grants contributing toward energy efficient upgrades. 

Since the MainStreet Efficiency program's launch in January, more than 500 KUB small business customers have signed up to implement recommended lighting upgrades, and 285 have been installed as of April 17, according to data from EnerPath. 

Funding for the program is provided by TVA, which has set aside $1.5 million to be used through September 30.

Customers receive a free lighting assessment from TVA contractor EnerPath showing how much they could save on energy costs with more efficient lighting. The program will pay up to $2,000 to offset the cost of energy efficient upgrades if they decide to implement suggested changes. 


According to TVA, lighting consumes nearly 35 percent of the electricity used in commercial buildings in the country. Lighting also impacts other building systems through its use of electricity and through waste heat.

Most upgrades in the program have cost an average of $1,310, less than the max grant amount, so most customers have no out-of-pocket costs, a KUB spokesperson said.

Projected energy savings from the committed projects is more than 2 million kilowatt hours, with an average per-customer savings of $482 per year.

Under MainStreet Efficiency, lighting upgrades could include replacing fluorescent fixtures with higher-efficiency lamps and ballasts, changing regular bulbs to compact fluorescent lights or light-emitting diode lights, or upgrading "Exit" signs to LED technology.
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Chattanooga Airport has received a $3 million grant from the FAA Airport Improvement Program that will be used to expand the airport's solar farm.

An additional $300,000 in funding will come from the airport.

The expansion is phase two of a planned three-phase project, and will add 4,000 solar panels to the site. 

The additional solar panels will go online next year.




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Black Bear Solar Institute, a Townsend-based nonprofit organization, has installed 24 vehicle charging stations in Blount County, reports Ed Marcum in the daily Knoxville News Sentinel.

Lisa Stewart, executive director of the organization, said it has installed 18 stations at businesses or organizations in Townsend and six in Maryville, and plans to install two at Knoxville's McGhee Tyson Airport. 

The group plans to install 12 more as part of its involvement in the U.S. Department of Energy's EV Project.

There is no cost to businesses for the installation, but Black Bear Solar will receive revenue from a planned hourly charging fee.

The organization also hopes to get businesses to sponsor solar electric arrays -- it wants to install up to 270 to sell power to TVA.


Photo: Electric vehicle charging stations at Trillium Cove Shopping Village / Ed Marcum, News Sentinel
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