Governor Lee, Commissioner Rolfe Announce Tennessee Communities to Receive Community Development Block Grants
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) Commissioner Bob Rolfe recently approved $28.5 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which will assist communities with infrastructure improvements. The allocation of CDBG funds is based on priorities set through the public meeting process at the local community level. The CDBG program is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development  and administered in Tennessee by TNECD. Funds are available for water and sewer improvements and new extensions, housing rehabilitation, and health and safety projects. Click here to see the full list of recipients and the projects the grants will fund.
TDEC OEP Assists Humphreys County Students and Teachers Following Flooding
During the early morning of August 21, 2021, torrential rainfall resulted in widespread flash flooding across western Middle Tennessee, including the town of Waverly in Humphreys County. The town was severely damaged by floodwater, with many homes and businesses destroyed and swept away. Numerous people became trapped, leading to widespread water rescues and loss of life. The event set the 24-hour rainfall record in Tennessee, with over 20 inches of rain falling in McEwen. In Humphreys County, at least 509 homes were impacted by flooding. Eight public facilities and 44 commercial properties sustained damage, many of which were in downtown Waverly.

Waverly Elementary and Waverly Middle School sit adjacent to each other along a small creek in Humphreys County. Waverly Elementary (485 students in Pre-K-3rd) and Waverly Middle School (600 students in 4th -8th) were not in session when the rain fell. However, this was the third time in 11 years that the schools have been flooded, with this instance resulting in the schools being condemned. Waverly’s educators lost entire classrooms and years’ worth of teaching materials. Currently, Waverly’s student population has been relocated to neighboring schools such as Lakeview Elementary School, Waverly Central High School, McEwen Elementary School, and McEwen Middle School.

TDEC OEP reached out to the Humphreys County Director of Schools as well as the Waverly Elementary and Middle School principals to offer energy education resources to teachers affected by the catastrophic flooding. OEP has since provided classroom materials  and lesson plans to educators at Lakeview Elementary and McEwen Elementary. OEP will continue to provide Waverly teachers with materials and resources throughout the remainder of the current and upcoming school year. Click here to learn more about OEP’s efforts to support K-12 energy education across Tennessee.

Solar Announcements in TN
Vanderbilt, NES, TVA, and Silicon Ranch Break Ground on New Solar Farm
In early 2020, Vanderbilt University, Nashville Electric Service (NES), TVA, and Nashville-based solar company Silicon Ranch entered into a landmark partnership, the first of its kind under TVA’s Green Invest program, to bring large-scale renewable energy to the Tennessee Valley. This month, the four organizations celebrated the groundbreaking for the new 35-MW solar farm in Bedford County, which is expected to begin producing power before the end of 2022.
This project supports Vanderbilt’s goal to power its campus entirely through renewable energy and to become carbon neutral by 2050. The generation from the new solar farm, dubbed Vanderbilt I, will offset approximately 70% of the university’s annual Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions. Silicon Ranch is funding the project and will recruit more than 250 workers from the Bedford County area for construction. The company will also own, operate, and maintain the solar farm, which will interconnect to the electric grid through Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, the local power company in the area.
The Vanderbilt I Solar Farm will utilize Silicon Ranch’s regenerative energy land management model, a holistic approach to design, construction, and operations that co-locates renewable energy production with regenerative agriculture practices. Once the project is operational, Silicon Ranch will restore the land to a functioning grassland ecosystem with regenerative land management practices, keeping the project in agricultural production through managed sheep grazing. Click here to learn more about this practice.
Washington County Solar Farm Begins Operation
A 9-MW Martin Solar Farm in Jonesborough began operation this month. The array is the second of its kind in Washington County, alongside a smaller array in Telford, which began generating power in 2019. The new solar farm is owned and operated by Silicon Ranch and was developed in partnership with local power company BrightRidge and TVA through a new Generation Flexibility program, which assists TVA and its power providers in meeting goals of distributing renewable energy to customers.
Additionally, BrightRidge revealed its plans for the development of another 4-MW solar farm in Sullivan County (also to be operated by Silicon Ranch), to further improve the utility’s carbon footprint in the region. Preliminary plans are to have the new solar array completed and operational by 2023.
New Director for Energy, Defense, and AgriTech Research Initiative at the University of Memphis FedEx Institute of Technology
Dr. Louis Qualls has been selected to establish and direct the ENDEAVOR Research Initiative at the University of Memphis FedEx Institute of Technology beginning February 1. ENDEAVOR, which stands for Energy, Defense, and AgriTech Innovation Research, will pursue connected, multi-discipline research to address shifts in population, the environment, and policy in a rapidly evolving and increasingly challenging world. Qualls received his PhD in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He is currently a distinguished researcher at ORNL and an adjunct professor in the University of Tennessee Department of Nuclear Engineering. 
An early emphasis of ENDEAVOR will be to develop strategic partnerships with other regional research communities in order to focus on issues specific to the Mid-South and Southeast. Its objective is to create a regional ecosystem where science and technology are used to address key sector challenges and foster innovation that attracts the best scholars, students, businesses, and research infrastructure.
The FedEx Institute of Technology is an advanced technology and research organization that functions as a catalyst for interdisciplinary research and innovation in emerging technologies by supporting cross-campus research innovation clusters. These clusters focus on specific areas such as intelligent systems, drones, cyber security testing, biologistics, autonomous and/or electric vehicles, robotics, smart biomaterials, additive manufacturing, agriculture and food technologies, and precision medicine. For more information on ENDEAVOR and/or the research areas identified, contact Qualls at
Knoxville Startup SkyNano to Partner with TVA to Create Carbon Nanotubes from Power Generation Emissions
A power plant in Tennessee is the site of a project using CO2 to help manufacture carbon nanotubes (CNTs), which can be used in a variety of products such as wind turbine blades, cellphone batteries, computer chips and electronics, lightweight bicycle frames, and even medicine and medical appliances. SkyNano Technologies, a Knoxville-based developer producing carbon-based nanomaterials using CO2 and electricity, recently announced its first-ever output of CNTs from flue gas at TVA’s 871-MW John Sevier Combined Cycle Plant near Rogersville.
Carbon nanotubes are small—about 1/100,000 the size of a human hair, and not visible under a traditional microscope—but they are very strong, flexible, and lightweight. They have unique electrical properties and are efficient conductors of heat. Creating nanotubes from CO2 emitted by a power plant has been considered a breakthrough in the use of carbon for beneficial purposes. Researchers have said creating CNTs would lead to development of a host of scalable technologies for using CO2 from power plants worldwide to produce valuable products. Click here to learn more about this technology.
American-Made Challenges - Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize
Through the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize, U.S. DOE aims to fund organizations for ongoing and/or proposed activities related to climate and clean energy that instill trust, support relationships, and strengthen or build partnerships with disadvantaged communities. Specifically, this prize enables business and technology incubation, acceleration, and other community- and university-based entrepreneurship and innovation in climate and clean energy technologies.
Through this prize, a total prize pool of up to $2.5 million across two phases will be granted to organizations that:
  • Are community-centric and have experience in successfully engaging with disadvantaged communities;
  • Promote environmental, climate, and energy justice;
  • Demonstrate strong community ties;
  • Can use their experience to serve as bridges between U.S. DOE and disadvantaged communities; and
  • Support clean energy grassroots innovation related to technology advancement in climate and clean energy with a focused impact on disadvantaged communities.
Applications for this prize are due by February 25 at 5:00 PM Eastern. Click here to access the prize rules. Click here to apply.
U.S. DOD Environmental Security Technology Certification Program Funding Opportunity
The U.S. Department of Defense (U.S. DOD) Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) recently released a funding opportunity to demonstrate and validate innovative energy and environmental technologies. Researchers from federal organizations, universities, and private industry can apply for ESTCP funding for a project under one of the provided Topic Areas, which cover energy and water resilience, water and space heating efficiency, microgrid development, energy and climate impacts, and technology transfer. ESTCP demonstrations are conducted at U.S. DOD facilities to document improved efficiency, reduced liability, improved environmental outcomes, enhanced resilience, and cost savings of new technologies.
Full proposals under this solicitation are due March 10 by 2:00 PM Eastern. An ESTCP funding opportunities webinar was held earlier this month, and the recording is available here. To see Topic Areas and instructions on how to apply, visit the ESTCP solicitation site here.
Spark Cleantech Accelerator Announces Open Applications
The Spark Cleantech Accelerator at the University of Tennessee Research Park’s Spark Innovation Center is recruiting early-stage, high-growth potential companies that aid the development of decarbonization and other technology solutions targeting the climate crisis while simultaneously supporting Tennessee’s advanced energy and circular economies. The accelerator will provide co-working space at the UT Research Park, a stipend, and access to prototyping facilities at UT to accelerate the participants’ progress during a three-month period. Additionally, entrepreneurs will have access to investor and mentor networks with cleantech industry expertise and the opportunity to participate in events held by Spark’s regional partners, including the Clean Energy Trust. This comprehensive set of services will assist in participants’ commercialization of their technologies in Tennessee and throughout the Southeast.
Recent reports from the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council show that Tennessee’s advanced energy and cleantech industries are thriving, making it the ideal location for early-stage companies to launch solutions that will accelerate the state’s transition to a new, clean energy economy. Nearly 394,000 Tennesseans are employed in the sector at more than 20,000 businesses that contribute approximately $46 billion to the state gross domestic product.
Applications are open for the program through March 11, 2022, with the first cohort of the accelerator to begin in June. 
Nominations Open for 2022 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards
TDEC is inviting Tennesseans to submit nominations for the 2022 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards, which honor outstanding accomplishments that support the protection and enhancement of Tennessee’s natural resources. Nominations are currently being accepted for the 2022 awards, which include the following categories: Agriculture and Forestry, Building Green, Clean Air, Energy and Renewable Resources, Environmental Education and Outreach, Materials Management, Natural Resources, Water Quality, Sustainable Performance, and Lifetime Achievement.
Any individual, business, organization, educational institution, or agency is eligible for nomination, provided the entity is located in Tennessee and their associated environmental project was completed during the 2021 calendar year. A panel of judges will select award recipients based on criteria including level of project or program completion, innovation, and public education. The deadline for nominations is March 31, and winners will be announced during the summer. Contact Kathy Glapa at (615) 253-8780 or with any questions.
Opportunity to Join U.S. DOE Clean Energy Corps
U.S. DOE’s Clean Energy Corps is comprised of staff from more than a dozen offices across the department all working together to research, develop, demonstrate, and deploy solutions for supercharging the clean energy revolution. With the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Clean Energy Corps is charged with investing more than $62 billion to deliver a more equitable clean energy future for the American people by:
  • Investing in American manufacturing;
  • Creating good paying jobs;
  • Expanding access to energy efficiency and clean energy for families, communities, and businesses;
  • Delivering reliable, clean, and affordable power to more Americans; and
  • Building the technologies of tomorrow through clean energy research, development, and demonstrations.
The Clean Energy Corps is currently accepting applications from passionate individuals from every community in America. Click here to apply.
State and Local Planning for Energy (SLOPE) Platform, New Scenario Planner Tool
U.S. DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have collaborated to develop the State and Local Planning for Energy Platform (SLOPE), which enables data-driven state and local energy planning through the integration of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and soon, sustainable transportation data and analysis into one accessible platform. Decision makers can use SLOPE to quickly see and understand local, cost-effective options that meet their sustainability and environmental goals. 
SLOPE’s new, ground-breaking Scenario Planner tool visualizes scenarios for future energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and system costs of a selected state or county. Users can select and explore various energy planning pathways, including grid decarbonization and electrification strategies, in isolation as well as in combination to showcase how the impact of different energy initiatives compare and interact with each other upon adoption.
U.S. DOE will hold a webinar on February 15 at 2:00 PM Eastern to launch and demonstrate the new tool. Click here to register.
Visit the TDEC Office of Energy Programs Website at
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