Tennessee landed its third major solar energy business investment in a year with officials announcing Thursday that St. Louis-based Confluence Solar would build a $200 million plant near Knoxville, creating 250 new jobs.
Alongside Gov. Phil Bredesen at a media event at the state Capitol, company executives said they have selected Clinton as the home of their new manufacturing, warehousing and distribution facility. It will produce mono-crystal silicon ingots for photovoltaic solar power generation.
“Once again, in spite of the clouds and rain outside, we can say the sun is shining on Tennessee," state Economic and Development Commissioner Matt Kisber said.
Bredesen has tried to turn Tennessee into a leader in green jobs and solar manufacturing. Last year, he attracted two, billion-dollar solar facilities to Tennessee — the Hemlock Semiconductor plant in Clarksville and the Germany-based Wacker Chemical plant near Chattanooga. State incentives played a role in attracting both Hemlock and Wacker. Both plants will produce polycrystalline silicon, a key component in solar panels.
In addition, Bredesen is spending federal stimulus money to start the Tennessee Solar Institute at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It will focus on basic science and industry partnerships to improve the affordability and efficiency of solar products. The state also is building the West Tennessee Solar Farm at the Haywood County industrial mega-site. One of the largest such installations in the Southeast, it will serve as a demonstration tool for educational, research and economic-development purposes.
"Two years ago, we set upon a strategy to make Tennessee a significant player in the solar industry," Bredesen said. "Since then, we've seen more than $2 billion in capital investment, more than a thousand jobs created, and, with the development of the Solar Farm and existing solar companies located in West Tennessee, we have truly created a statewide solar footprint. The announcement today by Confluence Solar is further proof that Tennessee is recognized as a leader in renewable energy and that a new economic engine is emerging in our state."
"Tennessee's nationally recognized business climate and their focused solar strategy, along with Clinton's close proximity to Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the new Solar Institute, made Tennessee the perfect location for our facility," said Tom Cadwell, CEO and co-founder of Confluence Solar. "The number of solar industry leaders establishing operations here and the intellectual energy surrounding solar technology provides our company, current investors, and future investors with the confidence that Tennessee is the place Confluence Solar needs to be."
The state offered tax credits and infrastructure development funding to bring the company to Tennessee, but Kisber said he could not estimate the value of the incentives.