NASHVILLE (WRCB) -- Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau Wednesday awarded $780,000 in Clean Tennessee Energy Grants to fund energy efficiency projects at four Tennessee educational institutions across the state.  These projects are designed to reduce air emissions, improve energy efficiency and create cost savings. 

The Clean Tennessee Energy Grant program provides financial assistance to state and local government agencies, utility districts, and private businesses/organizations in Tennessee to purchase, install and construct energy projects.

"Increasing energy efficiency in our colleges and universities not only impacts taxpayer dollars but also teaches our students to become better stewards of the environment," Haslam said.  "The projects announced today will benefit the state on both fronts, and I am pleased to see Tennessee's educational community demonstrate a tremendous amount of creativity and innovation to improve efficiency." 

The four Clean Tennessee Energy Grants announced today include: 

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga / The Center for Energy, Transportation and the Environment: UTC is receiving $100,000 for the installation of solar panels and a geothermal HVAC system for the Hamilton County campus Advanced Vehicle Test Facility building.  The installation will be capable of generating more energy than the facility consumes, making it one of the first "Energy Plus Buildings" in the Tennessee Valley. This particular building was selected for the project since its size is representative of a small commercial and/or manufacturing operation, allowing the project to serve as a demonstration of how a conventional commercial building can be converted into an Energy Plus Building.

The building's average energy usage per year has been approximately 6,000 kWh per month. The improved efficiency of the new geothermal HVAC unit, coupled with the other energy efficiency improvements, will reduce monthly average consumption to approximately 1,800 kWh. These reductions compound to a yearly energy usage of 21,600 kWh, which is less than the expected generation of 28,000 kWh by the solar panels. The annual cash savings will be approximately $6,800. Approximately an excess of 6,400kWh is produced, which would be used to charge electric vehicles or may be sold back to TVA for a net annual cash flow of $8,100, which would result in a payback period of less than 15 years.

Northeast State Community College:  Northeast State Community College is receiving $180,000 to replace an outdated and inefficient HVAC system at its Johnson City Downtown Centre, which will become the location for the college's proposed Johnson City/Washington County teaching site. The community college also proposes to install two high-efficiency boilers purchased from Lochinvar Corporation, as part of the HVAC replacement system.

Comparing the current boiler with its proposed replacement projects increases thermal efficiency from 75 percent to 95 percent – meaning less fuel will need to be burned to produce the same or greater amount of heat. Annual operating costs are projected to decrease from $60,000 to $46,000 as a result of an annual fuel costs savings of approximately $14,000. The installation cost of $75,000 will be recovered in just over five years, demonstrating the financial efficacy of the college's energy-efficiency improvements.

Tennessee Technological University:  Located in Cookeville / Putnam County, Tennessee Tech University is receiving $250,000 for a retrofit of its existing coal-fired steam plant, which primarily utilizes stoker coal. The retrofit will make a complete transition from coal to natural gas and current average boiler efficiency of the main coal-fired boiler in the 70-75 percent range will increase to approximately 84 percent.  To achieve this transition, one boiler's stoker coal feeder assembly will be removed and replaced by three natural gas burner assemblies.  The project will also involve the installation of new burners, ductwork, piping and engineering design work.

Improvements in boiler efficiency will primarily come from a reduction in stack loss, which is expected to be reduced by 10-14 percent.  The boiler turn down rates are estimated to improve from a 4-to-1 to a 6-to-1 ratio.  Completion of the project would result in a total annual costs savings of $378,330, including annual fuel costs savings of $180,000; the elimination of $20,350 annually in ash disposal costs; an annual labor costs savings of $128,000; electric consumption reductions worth $39,800 annually; and elimination of bag house usage, saving $10,000 annually.  These annual estimated total costs savings result in a drastically rapid simple payback of 1.76 years.

The University of Memphis:   The University of Memphis in Shelby County is receiving $250,000 to build two units that produce electricity using the Organic Rankine Cycle.  One unit will be solar powered and will be capable of producing approximately 4kW of electricity.  Sales of electricity through a TVA Green Power Providers agreement will help offset the university's energy costs. Because this particular unit is located on campus, it will also be used as an education tool. 

The second unit will be built at the Memphis Maxson Wastewater Treatment Plant and will be powered by existing methane generated from decomposing organic matter.  It will be capable of producing 50kW that also will be sold to TVA under the Green Power Providers agreement.  This second unit will provide approximately $43,000 in revenues that will offset energy costs at this public facility and at the University of Memphis.  Dividing this revenue equally between the two organizations would thereby provide each with an income of more than $100,000 over five years of operation to offset energy costs.

Funding for these four projects comes from an April 2011 Clean Air Act settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority.  Under the Consent Decree, Tennessee will receive $26.4 million over five years to fund clean air programs in the state (at approximately $5.25 million per year).  In addition to the $780,000 announced today, $2.3 million in Clean Tennessee Energy Grants was announced in June 2012 to fund projects in 17 communities and an additional $3 million was announced in January 2012 for energy efficiency efforts in state government.  

"Since we announced the new Clean Tennessee Energy Grants in January this year, we have been very pleased with the impressive roster of applicants seeking to decrease emissions, as well as reduce expenses at the local level," said Martineau.  "When Tennessee's educational institutions become involved it puts an even stronger emphasis on teaching others why environmental stewardship and energy efficiency is so important." 

Grant recipients were chosen with careful consideration given to the projects that met the selection criteria and expressed the greatest need.  To learn more about the Clean Tennessee Energy Grant and future grants, please visit