Governor Phil Bredesen is proposing the state spend federal stimulus dollars to develop solar technology in Tennessee. The initiative would create a 20-acre “solar farm,” and attract researchers to the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The federal stimulus gives the state about 62 million dollars for energy investments. Bredesen says if he could spend that money on children’s services or mental health, he would, but since it’s limited to energy, he wants it to drive economic development here.
ECD Commissioner Matt Kisber says that reflects a broader investment strategy for Tennessee’s future with renewable energy.
“I think it’s best summed up as I talked to some venture capitalists in California. And I asked them, ‘Where would you rank Tennessee?’ And they said, ‘Six months ago Tennessee wouldn’t have even been in our radar. And today we put you near the top.’”
The state is currently awaiting approval for the solar initiative from the Department of Energy.
Bredesen says UT and ORNL could start hiring within the next few months, and the West Tennessee solar farm should be online in less than two years.