Over $7 Million in Solar Innovation Grants Awarded to Tennessee Solar Industry

Guest Blog | December 19, 2010 | Energy Policy

Tennessee businesses in the solar industry have been awaiting the announcement of awarded grants from the Tennessee Solar Institute (TSI) for weeks. And they finally got it. Tennessee Solar Institute

On December 8th, TSI announced $7.25 million in Solar Innovation Grants awarded to 21 businesses throughout Tennessee’s solar industries that will fund 36 projects across the state. These grants will create hundreds of jobs in the state and produce over $20 million in cumulative benefits to Tennessee’s economy.

Among the businesses awarded are Sharp Manufacturing Company of America, manufacturer of solar photovoltaic modules in Memphis; AGC Glass Company North America, manufacturer of glass for solar modules in Kingsport; and Outpost Solar, which designs and manufactures both off-grid solar systems and grid-tied solar charging stations for electric vehicles. Also included were several solar installers throughout the state such as Lightwave Solar Electric, Sustainable Future, Green Earth Solar, Big Frog Mountain, and Solar & Renewable Power Systems. The projects awarded fall into one or more of the following categories: Technical Assistance, Workforce Development, Renewable Energy Products, Process Improvements, Technology Improvements, and Facilities and Equipment Improvements.

This is great news for Tennessee’s growing solar markets.  And there will be more to come in early 2011.

This is the first of two rounds of grants under TSI’s Solar Innovation Grant Program. TSI is acceptinginspection1 proposals until January 20th for the second round of grant awards. When it’s all said and done, the Innovation Grant Program will have provided over $15 million in funding to build the solar markets in Tennessee.  Combine this with the $9 million that was awarded by TSI for solar installations in 2010, and that’s more than $24 million that has been invested in clean, renewable solar energy production here in Tennessee.  These investments are creating high-paying jobs, strengthening local economies, and reducing our impact on air quality and climate change.

In all, the investments provided by the Tennessee Solar Institute are accelerating the state’s economic recovery and improving the environment. Governor Bredesen and his staff deserve strong praise for their decision to invest Recovery Act dollars to develop the state’s abundant solar resources.


In September 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Tennessee General Assembly approved Governor Bredesen’s proposed Volunteer State Solar initiative. This initiative, funded with $62.5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), consists of two components; the Tennessee Solar Institute (TSI) mentioned above, located on the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville, and the West Tennessee Solar Farm, located in Haywood County in west Tennessee. After fulfilling the requirements to receive the funding, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) contracted with the University of Tennessee to oversee planning, operation, and management of these initiatives.

TSI is a comprehensive solar energy and economic development program that combines resources from the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Their focus is on job creation, education, renewable power production, and technology commercialization.

Installing solar panels on a Tennessee business
Installing solar panels on a Tennessee business

On September 24, 2010, TSI announced $9 million in Installation grants to assist the installation of solar photovoltaic systems 200 kilowatts or less for Tennessee businesses. These Installation grants were awarded to 108 projects and businesses across the state, and are generating over $33 million worth of solar projects.  Once installed, these projects will add almost 8 megawatts, or 8,000 kilowatts, of solar energy to Tennessee.

For both the Installation and Innovation grants, the response from the solar industry in Tennessee has been overwhelming and quick. From the initial announcement of both grants, only a few months passed before the funds were committed. This is a testament to the increased demand in Tennessee to both install solar systems and to advance the new and fast-growing solar industry in the state. The Installation grants help to ease the up-front costs of installing solar energy, and the Innovation grants will help the solar industry in Tennessee advance solar energy technologies and drive down costs.

As we work to recover from the “Great Recession,” the Tennessee Solar Institute and the grants it provides are proving to be invaluable to Tennessee’s economy and our clean energy future.

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