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DOE Solar America Cities

Solar America Cities

Cities, the nation’s centers of electricity consumption, are uniquely positioned to reduce global climate change, strengthen America’s energy independence, and improve air quality by converting to solar energy sources.

Knoxville has great potential to lead the region in developing a sustainable solar infrastructure. The area is home to a hub of clean energy research and innovation, including industry leaders such as Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the University of Tennessee, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE).

In 2008, the federal Department of Energy (DOE) selected the City of Knoxville as one of 12 communities for its Solar America Cities program, which provides support to US cities committed to making solar a mainstream energy source. DOE awarded the City $200,000 over two years to incentivize local generation of solar power, and $200,000 in technical assistance towards program initiatives. TVA provided $50,000 annually, and both TVA and Knoxville Utility Board (KUB) committed additional technical and staff assistance.

Knoxville’s Solar America Cities project, named "Solar Knoxville," engaged the strengths of our project partners to increase solar electricity generation capacity by identifying and breaking down barriers that have stalled significant growth in demand for solar energy technologies. Project partners included:

  • Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
  • Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB)
  • Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE)
  • Ijams Nature Center
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
  • Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC)
  • Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
  • Public Building Authority (PBA)
  • Knoxville Area Transit (KAT)

Solar Knoxville supported comprehensive, city-wide approaches that encouraged innovative uses of solar as a viable energy solution for residents and businesses. Multi-institutional teams of solar experts provided technical assistance in areas such as incorporating solar into city planning, choosing appropriate technologies, structuring project financing, updating zoning and building codes, training qualified installers, and conducting community outreach to educate the consumer base. 

And we succeeded. From 2008 to 2011, solar generation in Knoxville and Knox County grew from about 15 kW of electricity to more than 1,300 kW, due to Solar Knoxville activities such as:

  • Hosted courses for solar installation certification, training for educators and code enforcement officials, and a “Solar 101” workshop for homeowners and the general public
  • Sponsored solar tours, fairs, and other educational and outreach activities
  • Installed solar PV system at the Duncan Transit Center, installed solar on Knox Heritage’s Green House, and initiated a third-party agreement for installation of an additional 90 kW array at the Knoxville Convention Center.

While Knoxville has ‘graduated’ from Solar America Cities, our commitment to clean energy continues. Learn more here.