Georgia and Tennessee are among seven states chosen to participate in a project aimed at determining how to use the sun's power in their specific, county-by-county, geographic and economic situations.
The study -- titled Solar Energy Analysis for the States -- is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.
"DOE will provide $150,000 for this project in total, with that amount being split among the seven states," said Rob Thormeyer, spokesman for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.
DOE officials chose Tennessee and Georgia, along with Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri and Colorado, from among 16 states that applied for assistance in the beginning stages of establishing renewable energy policies and standards.
The money will be used to analyze each state's current solar capabilities and to examine ideas for furthering solar markets and capabilities, he said.
"If, for example, Tennessee or Georgia has a specific idea for expanding solar use in the state, this arrangement will provide support for determining what resources the state already has and where they can move from there," he said. "It will not be used for hiring staff."
Officials with the Georgia Public Service Commission said the Peach State expect benefits, too.
"This project will enable our state to receive a detailed quality analysis on solar energy issues for Georgia," said PSC Chairman Doug Everett. "Efficient solar energy can be a part of any renewable energy package."
In the Volunteer State, Tennessee Regulatory Authority officials expect the Solar Energy Analysis for the States project to help them better extend solar capabilities.
"Just as Tennessee was a leader in the development of hydro and nuclear power, our state can play an equally important role in the application of solar energy technologies," said authority Chairman Eddie Roberson.
Jerry Kettles, Tennessee Regulatory Authority's chief of economic analysis and policy, compared the final product to something like a solar advisory model.
"A lot of the work has been done (nationally), he said. "We're basically trying to populate that (national) model with data for Tennessee. The solar capacity for each state is kind of unique."
Tennessee and Georgia utility commissioners and staff said they also will work with National Renewable Energy Laboratory analysts to identify and study the technological, economic and regulatory barriers that challenge the use of solar energy in those states.
In a related announcement, Gov. Phil Bredesen's plan to use $60 million in stimulus money on solar projects in Tennessee has been approved by the federal government.
The governor announced the approval at a conference on economic development in Nashville on Tuesday.
The stimulus money will be split between a solar generation plant in Haywood County, about 50 miles northeast of Memphis, and a solar research institute at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
BY THE NUMBERS
* $117.6 million: Total U.S. Department of Energy money for solar power development
* $51.5 million: Photovoltaic technology development to reduce solar energy cost
* $40.5 million: Study ways to connect solar power to the electric grid and to better market solar power
* $25.6 million: Solar reliability research and development
* $150,000: Money for seven states to study current solar capabilities and future ideas
Source: DOE, Tennessee and Georgia officials.
Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...