Governor Bredesen Proposes Volunteer State Solar Initiative

Memphis, TN – Sixty two and a half million dollars of the American Recovery act or federal Tennessee stimulus package has been allocated only toward energy initiatives. Governor Phil Bredesen announced earlier today the funds would go towards the creation of a five mega watt solar farm in Haywood County and a new Solar Institute at The University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Bredesen says the projects are closely related but separate.

"The idea of a solar institute is to really be a basic research, a thought leader to drive the science behind solar technology so we can help make these products more efficient. In this institute, with the funding we are proposing to provide they will be hiring about 300 researchers and staff."

Both proposals, the solar institute and the solar farm would create around 450 jobs and retain around 165. The jobs retained would be those involved in manufacturing the solar panels. Bredesen says close to 22 thousand panels will be purchased from the Memphis based factory Sharp Manufacturing.

"We are going to develop that in conjunction with TVA who has agreed to buy the power generated by it at much higher price than their normal wholesale rate, a renewable energy price. We will realize about a million dollars a year in the revenue power produced from the site. And my proposal is that each year we just farm that back into growing the size of the site. A little bit like a tree that grows a little bit, so this year it is a five mega watt site and you know maybe next year it's a five point three mega watt site and just continues to grow over time."

Five mega watts is roughly the equivalent to powering a small village anywhere between five and six hundred homes. Bredesen says he would like to have a learning center on site for kids across the state to visit to increase knowledge and interest in solar energy. The proposals were sent to the Department of Energy yesterday for approval. Bredesen says the construction of the two projects will begin immediately pending the DOE's response. He says he expects both will be accepted. If approved, the Haywood County farm would be one of the largest in the eastern United States.