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A consortium of researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley organizations, regional planners, and the Department of Energy have formed the Oak Ridge Energy Corridor, an initiative to promote alternative-energy-based mass transit and a network of recharging facilities for electric and hybrid vehicles.
Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley organizations participating in the effort include the National Transportation Research Center, City of Oak Ridge, Metropolitan Knoxville Municipal Airport Authority, Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization, Y-12 National Security Complex and UT-Battelle, the partnership which manages ORNL.
The goal of the corridor group is make it clear that public and private sectors support for an alternative energy transportation system can greatly reduce the region’s carbon footprint.
The Oak Ridge Energy Corridor demonstration project will include alternatively fueled mass transit vehicles, integrated recharging and parking facilities for electric and hybrid vehicles, and intelligent transportation technology. In addition, interconnected bike and pedestrian paths will terminate at key parking and destination locations.
The initiative is intended to accomplish four goals.
— Enhance electric vehicle use, minimize carbon footprint, and emissions reductions in a region that experiences non-attainment challenges;
— Serve as a platform to test, demonstrate, and evaluate intelligent transportation technology utilizing the expertise in the area;
— Serve as a public transportation opportunity for an underserved population in a community with a high influx of commuter traffic;
— Provide an education opportunity for other regional transportation planning organizations during implementation of energy and environmentally sound transportation projects.
Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley has become a hub for alternative energy manufacturers. A major new ethanol facility is under construction by Genera Energy, an arm of the University of Tennessee. Confluence Solar decided last month to build a $200 million manufacturing, warehousing and distribution facility in Clinton, TN, near ORNL, creating 300 jobs. Confluence creates mono-crystal silicon ingots that lower the cost of solar photovoltaic solar power generation.
Both Wacker Chemie and Hemlock Semiconductor are building $1 billion-plus plants in Tennessee to produce high quality polysilicon used in solar panels and computers.