Archive for February 14, 2012

UT Biosolar Breakthrough Promises Cheap, Easy Green Electricity

Barry D. Bruce, professor of biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is turning the term “power plant” on its head. The biochemist and a team of researchers have developed a system that taps into photosynthetic processes to produce efficient and inexpensive energy.

Bruce collaborated with researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Switzerland to develop a process that improves the efficiency of generating electric power using molecular structures extracted from plants. The biosolar breakthrough has the potential to make “green” electricity dramatically cheaper and easier.

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President’s 2013 Budget Revives 1603 Solar Tax Credit, Eliminates $4B in Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Here are some of the highlights of the energy portion of the budget:

  • The budget provides for an extension of the Section 1603 Treasury Program, a program that addresses the scarcity of tax equity for financing solar projects.
  • The budget proposes the repeal of over $4 billion per year in “inefficient” tax subsidies to oil, gas, and other fossil fuel producers.
  • The budget proposes funding the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at $2.33 billion, an increase from 2012 figures.
  • $310 million for the SunShot Initiative to make solar power at grid parity without subsidies by 2020.
  • $95 million for wind power, including offshore wind technologies.
  • $65 million for geothermal power and enhanced geothermal energy technology.
  • $770 million for the Office of Nuclear Energy, including funding to research and develop small modular reactors (SMRs).
  • The DOE receives $27.2 billion under the budget request, a 3 percent increase from 2012 levels.
  • The Office of Science would receive $5 billion to fund basic research.
  • The beleaguered DOE loan guarantee program would not win any expanded funding, though the budget does call for maintaining the current loan portfolio.


Wacker Polysilicon to expand Charleston, TN, operations again

The current construction of the new Wacker plant near Charleston, TN. Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Wacker Polysilicon officials are expected to announce an additional $300 million investment in their northern Bradley County operations after receiving a one-time $1 million property tax abatement for 2014.

Wacker, originally having made a $1 billion commitment to its Charleston facility, ultimately will increase its investment to $1.8 billion, said Farlow. He noted that the company already had made an additional $500 million investment without asking for further concessions from the county.

In addition to the property taxes that Wacker will provide the county, it will pump an estimated $65 million into the community through salaries and wages for its projected staff of 600 employees, said Farlow.

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TVA Launches Solar Solutions Initiative

TVA is now starting to take applications for the Solar Solutions Initiative!  It is for solar systems between 50 kW and 1 MW installed by a local certified contractor.  All solar panels must be manufactured and/or assembled in the Tennessee Valley region.  It is a two year pilot project with a cap of 10 MW each year.  Details and applications can be found at

Solar Solutions Initiative Fact Sheet