An environmental resource for East Tennessee Business

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Knoxville will host the fourth annual Tennessee Bike Summit April 23-24 at the Knoxville Convention Center.

Cyclists, planners, engineers and government officials will gather to attend sessions and workshops on advocacy, education, planning and infrastructure.

Ahead of that event, the city has released a list of 20 bicycle-friendly improvements it's prioritizing for the next few years -- out of 120 that were recommended in a recent study.

Topping the list is a plan to widen the stretch of Chapman Highway that cyclists take to get across the Henley Bridge to UT or downtown destinations and add a dedicated bike lane.

Photo: University of Tennessee student Christopher Allen bikes on the sidewalk en route to campus last week on Chapman Highway. The city has completed a study recommending  upgrades to Knoxville's bicycle infrastructure, including a $700,000 Chapman Highway project the city hopes to fund with a federal grant distributed through TDOT. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

That state of Tennessee will now share costs for farmers here to earn the USDA organic certification

Certified organic producers can apply to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture for a 75 percent cost share up to a maximum of $750 to help defray costs related to receiving and maintaining organic certification, including inspection costs. Organic operations that have achieved certification since October 1, 2014 meet the time qualification to seek reimbursement, as do organic operations that become certified between now and September 30, 2015.

Organic certification typically costs small farm producers between $600 and $1,000 annually. Costs increase based on product and sales volume.

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Starting next year, FEMA says it will only approve disaster preparedness funds to states whose governors approve hazard mitigation plans that factor in climate change.

This may put several Republican governors who maintain the earth isn't warming due to human activities, or prefer to do nothing about it, into a political bind, reports Katherine Bagley, with InsideClimate News.

Their position may block their states' access to hundreds of millions of dollars in FEMA funds. Over the past five years, the agency has awarded an average $1 billion a year in grants to states and territories for taking steps to mitigate the effects of disasters.

Photo: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate speaks at FEMA headquarters in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Zach Gibson)

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Community organizers have finalized long-range plans for linking greenways in West Knoxville, Knox County and Oak Ridge.

The Knox to Oak Ridge Greenway Plan, created by The Great Smoky Mountains Regional Greenway Council, Knoxville Regional TPO and their partners, would add 13.2 miles of greenway trail to connect the Melton Lake Greenway in Oak Ridge with the 10 Mile Creek and Pellissippi greenways in Knox County.

The project as envisioned would cost $8.8 million dollars and be pursued in stages, according to a press release.  A second, smaller study is in the works this year to add the Turkey Creek Greenway into the project, based on public feedback.

Of that figure, the greenway itself is estimated to cost $600,000 per mile, but some portions of the proposed path will take more work than others. Safely crossing the Solway Bridge is a known problem; the proposed cantilevered pedestrian walkway  solution would cost $560,000. The Cross Creek trailhead, including a parking lot, would need to be created at a cost of $103,000.

 Finding those funds is expected to take time and a mix of public and private cooperation, especially as federal support for such projects are on the wane. 

Options mentioned in the report include asking developers of nearby commercial and residential projects to set aside property or easments for the greenway, as well as traditional donations of money and materials.

The planning document highlights potential benefits of greenways to both homeowners and businesses, citing projects in similar cities in the region that attracted businesses and boosted home values. 

All 17 schools in the Anderson County school system have received upgrades as part of a $9.7 million project to save energy.

An open house celebrating the milestone will be  5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday at Briceville Elementary School.

The project included upgrades to heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, electrical systems, new windows, energy efficient lights, water conservation measures, advanced energy management controls and new suspended ceiling systems.

The improvements will provide the school system with more than $620,000 in annual energy savings, which will more than pay for implementation, said Larry Foster, director of schools in a news release.

The energy saved is estimated to be equivalent to the power needs of more than 650 homes per year.

The project is part of a 15-year contract with Energy Systems Group, an energy service provider, approved last year.

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Visit the University of Tennessee's SPECTRUM solar energy exhibit Saturday at Knoxville Center Mall and learn the ins and outs of solar energy, courtesy of UT, the city of Knoxville, Aries Energy and TN-SCORE.

From 10:30 a.m.-noon March 14, ARiES Energy will present information about installing solar panels for residential and commercial customers, including the process, pay-back period and impact on electricity bills.

The exhibit is on the mall's second level, next to JC Penney.

Register with Eventbrite

TWC.jpgTennessee Wesleyan College has earned 2014 Tree Campus USA recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation.

The program recognizes colleges and universities that maintain healthy trees and encourage conservation efforts on campus. 

The program requires five core standards for sustainable campus forestry, including an established tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated monies for the campus tree program, observance of Arbor Day and the sponsorship of student service-learning projects.

"The Tree Advisory Committee is a student-led committee," Mike Ingram, TWC director of physical plant services. "Their work this last year enabled us to receive this achievement. They planned and participated in Arbor Day and completed a service-learning project with Dr. Allen Moore."

Pictured from left: TWC Students Stephanie Franklin, Sarah Kilgore, Brook Fincher, Tim Wilson, Rachel Hull

 

 

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With solar energy costs falling and interest in sustainability rising in East Tennessee, the time is right for Nashville-based LightWave Solar to expand east, said Jon Bates, who heads the company's new office in the Knoxville area, in an interview with reporter Ed Marcum.

LightWave Solar opened its East Tennessee office Jan. 1, Bates said. For now, he operates it out of his home in Lenoir City, but as business grows, LightWave will open a permanent office somewhere in the area.

"We will expand with sales and administrative people and installation crews," he said Tuesday. "We have already exceeded our goals for almost the first quarter in East Tennessee."

While the Knoxville office is something new, the company is no stranger to the area. It has an office in Johnson City and has done a number of solar installations in East Tennessee. It now is working on a 1-megawatt solar installation at East Tennessee Technology Park in Oak Ridge (pictured). Restoration Services Inc. and Vis Solis are developing the project, which will have 3,269 solar modules and feed the electricity produced into the TVA power grid.

Continue reading at the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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This year the USDA's Rural Energy for America Program wants to spend more than $2 million in East Tennessee on its program to help deliver technology and economic opportunity to the rural parts of the country.

"It will be the most that we've ever had as far as funding we've actually got to spend," said Dan Beasley, director of business and cooperative programs for USDA Rural Development in a recent interview with Business Journal reporter Larisa Brass.

Last year the office had only 23 applications for the program, which provides up to 24 percent of project costs in grants and up to 75 percent in loan guarantees for renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects to rural small businesses and agriculture-based businesses in either rural or urban settings. For more information on applications, see the USDA's Tennessee state page.

Projects in 14 East Tennessee counties have utilitized the program, including Holden Nursery in Mascot.

The owners used funding from the REAP program, along with TVA's Green Power Providers incentives, to install a solar generating system on their property.

Owner Kim Holden says the system pays for the company's electric bill and can produce far more in the summer.



The city of Knoxville, in partnership with other local organizations, seeks to improve area residents' energy efficiency in their homes as well as area schools and municipal buildings as part of a nationwide competition.

The goal is to win Georgetown University's $5 million Energy Prize.

The city is on track to improve its efficiency, says Brian Blackmon, project manager for the city of Knoxville's sustainability office, in a recent interview with Business Journal reporter Larisa Brass.

For residential users small changes like programmable thermostats and installing efficient light bulbs are recommended.

KUB will track overall residential energy usage for the program and has plans to launch a new program, Round It Up, which will round customers bills up to the nearest dollar and donate the extra to Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee to provide energy efficiency upgrades for low-income families.

TVA's new program, eScore, will provide free energy audits to homeowners with rebates available for recommended improvements.

Other partners include Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the University of Tennessee, the Alliance to Save Energy, Tennessee Interfaith Power & Light, Harvey Broome Group (Sierra Club) and Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Shelley Kimel published on April 8, 2015 8:53 AM.

State helps TN farmers pay for certifications was the previous entry in this blog.

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