Good news on solar manufacturing continued this week in Tennessee when Governor Bredesen announced yet another solar company, Confluence Solar, would set up a new $200 million solar manufacturing, warehouse and distribution facility in Clinton, Tennessee (just north of Knoxville). According to a local news report, the facility will bring at least 250 new jobs to Anderson County, where the current unemployment rate is nearly nine percent.
At the press conference in Nashville yesterday, Gov. Bredesen also discussed the development of several initiatives that place Tennessee in a leading position among southeastern states for movement and advancement of solar energy technology.
“Two years ago, we set upon a strategy to make Tennessee a significant player in the solar industry,” said Governor Bredesen. “Since then, we’ve seen more than two billion dollars in capital investment, more than a thousand jobs created, and, with the development of the Solar Farm and existing solar companies located in West Tennessee, we have truly created a statewide solar footprint. The announcement today by Confluence Solar is further proof that Tennessee is recognized as a leader in renewable energy and that a new economic engine is emerging in our state.”
Confluence Solar joins a range of solar manufacturing companies to recently relocate to Tennessee. Both Hemlock Semiconductor and Wacker Chemie, AG announced plans to locate billion dollar polycrystalline facilities in Tennessee, demonstrating how Tennessee could quickly become the solar manufacturing capital of North America.
According to an article in the Nashville Business Journal, Confluence Solar expects the new plant to have a staff of 250 by 2011 and potentially 500 by 2013 with an average salary for workers around $55,000. The article also states that, in addition to state manufacturing incentives, the company chose the eastern Tennessee location due to its proximity to Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Solar Institute at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, in addition to the new Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. and Wacker Chemie AG facilities.
Bredesen’s administration should be commended for recognizing Tennessee’s potential to achieve economic growth and environmental health through programs such as the Volunteer State Solar Initiative that are developing the solar market in the state.
SACE played an important role in supporting Tennessee’s commitment to solar technology and to attract solar-based businesses, vendors, and manufacturing companies that have the potential to create thousands of high quality, clean energy jobs. SACE has a long history of working to support solar energy in the state, and after working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to host the Southeast Solar Summit, the Department of Energy (DOE) named the City of Knoxville a Solar America City and SACE was chosen as the Project Coordinator to work with city leaders.
“We’re pleased to welcome Confluence Solar to the business community here in the Knoxville area,” said Mayor Bill Haslam. “As a DOE Solar America City, it’s particularly exciting to have a solar energy firm like this one locating nearby, and we hope to see more clean energy technology companies move to this area.”
However, there is still work to be done before these markets reach their full potential. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) must also step up and do its part to support the growing solar markets and achieve the jobs, economic growth and healthy environment that solar energy can provide.