Energy Mentor Network graduates secure funding to advance technologies

Active Energy Systems receives an SBIR Phase II Award, while Nth Cycle secures $3.2 million in seed funding

The Energy Mentor Network is run by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council in partnership with Launch Tennessee. Its goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and industry specific expertise. Two of our graduates have recently secured funding to advance their technologies.

Active Energy Systems received an NSF SBIR Phase II Award

Active Energy Systems graduated from the Energy Mentor Network in 2019. The startup invented the world’s first “icephobic coating,” which creates a surface impervious to freezing water. It recently received an NSF SBIR Phase II Award to unleash the potential of water as a thermal energy storage medium for building air conditioning.

This funding will allow Active Energy Systems to create Icephobic Heat Exchange (IHEX) technology eliminating the adhesion of freezing water to cold surfaces, preventing ice buildup on the coil and realizing the power of water for low-cost, high efficiency, resilient building cooling.

Nth Cycle secured $3.2 million in seed funding

Nth Cycle graduated from the Energy Mentor Network in 2020. The startup is developing a system to cost effectively recycle lithium-ion batteries to recover the high-value metals. It secured $3.2 million in seed funding to scale its technology for battery recycling for sustainable mining. This funding will allow Nth Cycle to execute their technology roadmap and deploy several pilot projects with recyclers and mine operators early next year.

Nth Cycle was also featured in Waste360 where CEO Megan O’Connor stated, “We can process in a cost- and environmentally effective way compared to standard, existing methods. We can reduce operating costs by 75 percent and also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent [determined using a Department of Energy battery recycling model].”

Learn more about the Energy Mentor Network, its companies, and mentors here

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Knoxville invests in advanced energy future

TVA and KUB to develop 200-MW solar farm, Mayor’s office outlines proposed investments

In 2019, the City of Knoxville set an ambitious clean-energy target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, compared with 2005 levels. Just last year, the Knoxville Utilities Board announced that 20 percent of the city’s electricity would come from renewable sources by 2023. Today, Knoxville is on its way to becoming a leader in the region for solar energy thanks to exciting new developments. 

TVA and KUB to develop 200-MW solar farm

To support Knoxville’s renewable energy transition, the Tennessee Valley Authority announced it has selected Origis Energy to build a 200-megawatt solar farm in Mississippi. KUB’s support also enabled 50 megawatts of new battery storage technology that will improve grid resiliency. 

“We take our commitment of being good stewards of our environment seriously, and we are thrilled to work with TVA to put our community on the map for renewable energy,” said Gabriel Bolas, KUB president and CEO, in a written statement. “This endeavor benefits residential and business customers who can know that their daily lives include green energy resources, leading the way to a sustainable future.”  

Mayor’s office outlines proposed investments 

TVA and KUB’s solar farm isn’t the only advanced energy news out of Knoxville. This past week, Mayor Indya Kincannon released her office’s proposed 2021-22 budget  that includes five key priorities, one of which is investing in a “clean and resilient future.” Using insight gathered from the Mayor’s Climate Council, the proposed budget involves:

  • $15.3 million in direct City support for Knoxville Area Transit (KAT), including $1.2 million for matching grants as KAT continues to convert its fleet to all-electric buses
  •  $150,000 for additional public electric vehicle charging stations and for charging infrastructure to support electrification of the City’s vehicle fleet
  • More than $4 million is committed to stormwater infrastructure and $721,000 is allocated to protect and expand Knoxville’s urban forest, both critical programs for resilience and a healthy environment

“We can and will lead by example in reducing carbon emissions,” said Mayor Kincannon in a written statement. “My proposed budget takes the next important steps toward reaching those goals. We’re building the transformational infrastructure now that will enable us to be cleaner and greener for generations to come.”

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New Administration nominates four new TVA Board members

This week, President Joe Biden announced four nominations for the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board of Directors. This announcement follows the appointment of Beth Harwell and Brian Noland last year by former President Donald Trump.

The nominees include:

Beth Geer

Beth Prichard Geer is Chief of Staff to former Vice President Al Gore and serves as a member of Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s Sustainability Advisory Committee. Geer has extensive policy and outreach experience on issues including climate change, environmental justice, and regenerative agriculture. She has served in senior roles in the Clinton-Gore White House, Department of Labor, and United States Senate. As a native of rural Tennessee, she graduated with honors from Middle Tennessee State University and earned the Public Leadership Executive Certificate from the Harvard Kennedy School Senior Managers in Government program.  She resides in Brentwood, Tennessee with her husband, Dr. John Geer.

Robert Klein

Robert P. Klein is a lifelong resident of Chattanooga having attending Hamilton County public schools graduating from Tyner High School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society and National Beta Club.  He also attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Klein served in the Tennessee Army National Guard where received an Honorable Discharge.

He began his professional career at the Chattanooga Gas Company before continuing at the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga (now EPB) where he worked in the Overhead Line Department.  He completed the Joint Lineman Apprenticeship Program becoming a Journeyman Lineman in 1982.  He furthered his career by becoming a Line Foreman supervising the building and maintaining of the power distribution system. Klein took a leave of absence with EBP to work with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 175 and was appointed in 1998 as an International Representative with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).  In 2003 he was appointed as the International Vice President of the IBEW Tenth District, which consists of Tennessee, Arkansas, North and South Carolina.  He was re-elected as Vice President at the 37th and 38th IBEW International Conventions.

During his career Klein has served on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the United Way of Chattanooga, Board of Directors for the Tennessee Labor-Management Conference, Board of Directors for the Tennessee Safety and Health Congress, sat on the Tennessee Valley Trades and Labor Council, where is served as President for fourteen (14) years.  He also sat on the Tennessee Valley Authority Labor -Management Committee as well as on the Board of Directors for the Southeast Labor-Management Public Affairs Committee.  Additionally, he was a Trustee for the IBEW-NECA Family Medical Healthcare Plan.  He officially retired from EPB in 2011 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in 2015.

Kimberly Lewis

Kimberly Caudle Lewis of Huntsville, Alabama, is the Chief Executive Officer of PROJECTSYZ, Inc., a business that provides services and products in the areas of engineering, logistics, technical services, manufacturing, and international foreign military sales. She leads a workforce that supports federal and commercial customers across several diverse subsidiaries and at locations across the US and around the world. Lewis has a 25-year career spanning business operations and management, technology, and federal government contracting.

A life-long resident of Madison County, Alabama, Lewis would later become the first black female elected as Board Chair of the Huntsville / Madison Chamber of Commerce and most recently, the first minority owner of North Alabama’s only locally owned broadcast television station, WTZT-TV.

Lewis’ previous career roles and studies in healthcare and information technology set the foundation for starting PROJECTXYZ and where she was previously involved in management of large-scale IT implementations and projects for large healthcare companies. She earned a degree in Computer Information Systems at John C. Calhoun State Community College.

Michelle Moore

A social entrepreneur and former White House official with roots in rural Georgia, Michelle Moore is a purposeful leader with a passion for connecting clean energy with economic growth. Her passion for community power and getting good stuff done is rooted in her faith and the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Moore currently serves as CEO of Groundswell, a nonprofit that builds community power through community solar, clean energy, and resilience programs that share power, savings, and economic opportunity with more than four thousand families. Her accomplishments range from building the global green building movement as a senior executive with the U.S. Green Building Council to leading the sustainability and infrastructure delivery teams for the Obama Administration.

Moore got her start in sustainability in 1997 as Director of eBusiness for Interface Inc. in her hometown of LaGrange GA, where working for Ray Anderson showed her how to connect people, planet, and profitability and the pathway to “doing well by doing good.” Moore is married to Linwood Boswell, a local music mainstay, father of three, and community real estate agent in Richmond, Virginia.

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Advanced Energy Business Roundtable for West Tennessee emphasizes importance of electrification, collaboration

Stakeholders from state government, higher education and the private sector discuss the state’s advanced energy sector and opportunities for future growth and collaboration

On April 13, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) hosted its first Advanced Energy Business Roundtable focused on West Tennessee. The event brought together individuals from three significant areas of the state’s advanced energy (AE) economy: state government, higher education and the private sector. Speakers spoke about the electric vehicle (EV) supply chain, creating AE jobs and how to boost state economic development through AE collaborations.

State Government 

The event began with insight from stakeholders in state government. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s Director of Business Development Chassen Haynes shared TNECD’s vision to create a cohesive statewide network to become the number one state in the country for the EV supply chain. He also discussed EV efforts that will cultivate an AE economy to attract and retain innovative businesses across the state.

“Governor Lee has charged our department with making sure Tennessee is at the forefront of these changes and making sure the state is positioned to make itself number one in the nation for EV production,” Haynes said. “It’s an exciting time for Tennessee and an exciting time for the automotive industry.”

Next, Launch Tennessee’s Chief Executive Officer Van Tucker spoke about the value of the Energy Mentor Network and providing easy access to capital for growing or emerging businesses.

“Our goal for the next fiscal year is that we’re going to put a focused strategy together to recruit, retain, expand, and grow our mentor network and advanced energy industry in the state of Tennessee,” Tucker said. 

Higher Education

Afterward, attendees heard from higher education partners. During her presentation, Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) Chancellor Flora Tyding outlined TBR’s current AE focus across the state and what a transition to support the sector might look like. 

“We have a very succinct mission: student success and workforce development,” Tyding said. “We are your partners in the advanced energy environment.”

Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA) President Claude Pressnell highlighted what private campuses are doing to explore and support AE development and how the private sector can collaborate with private institutions.

“One thing that I want to share with you all is the importance of collaboration, whether it be collaboration with the board of regents, independent colleges, the UT System, locally governed four-year universities, and whether you do that locally or statewide,” Pressnell said. 

Private Sector

Rounding out the event, attendees heard from two major private-sector players in the state’s AE economy. First, Silicon Ranch’s Chairman and TAEBC Board Member Matt Kisber emphasized  how collaboration in the AE economy works now and how it could work by implementing more strategy and intentionality with various stakeholders across the state.

“Organizations like TAEBC were developed to support bringing these various voices together so that they can collaborate, share information, and know who is out there that can fulfill and need or void in the development of a project, technology, or what’s necessary to move forward,” Kisber said.

FedEx’s Environmental Affairs & Chief Sustainability Officer Mitch Jackson wrapped up the presentation portion of the event by outlining FedEx’s transportation electrification goals, and speaking about how the state and AE economy can support these efforts, along ith opportunities for improvement.

“We announced we were going to take FedEx carbon neutral by 2040 for our global operations,” Jackson said. “Companies like FedEx are trying to transform not only themselves but their industries with respect to renewable energy, advanced technologies, zero carbon strategies and the like.”

Following the presentations, speakers answered a range of audience questions, including what are the biggest selling points for recruiting and retaining advanced energy businesses and specifics about EV developments in the state. 

“Having the ability to convene and organize all the stakeholders like we are doing today and continuing those dialogues and discussions, setting priorities, helping inform policy, it is going to be critically important,” Kisber said. “Bringing everybody together is going to be critically important so that we’re not just having one-off conversations but we’re talking as a community and focusing on how to move forward together.”

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TAEBC signs on to updated $150 billion stimulus proposal sent to new Administration

Last year, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council signed on to a $150 billion stimulus proposal, spearheaded by the Transportation Electrification Partnership (TEP), a national coalition of cleantech companies and organizations, and the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI). 

On March 30, 2021, the coalition sent a new letter to Congress and the Biden Administration, updating the White House and relevant agencies on its proposals and voicing support for President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which is in line with the coalition’s priorities.

The updated proposal reflects the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better Plan. The goal of the $150 billions stimulus is job creation in manufacturing, infrastructure, and innovation to help boost the economy post pandemic, reduce air pollution, improve public health, protect vulnerable populations, and build climate resilience. Under the updated proposal, an estimated 2.3 million jobs would be created while helping America build its leadership on electric vehicle manufacturing, supply chain, and deployment. 

According to the updated proposal, recommended actions include:

  1. $25 billion investment in the assembly and adoption of electric and zero emissions vehicles along with supply chain development (e.g., producing domestic lithium for batteries, etc.);
  2. $85 billion for EV charging and related infrastructure investment;
  3. $25 billion for zero emissions public transit, active transit and safe streets;
  4. $12.5 billion for workforce development, safety standards and job training; and
  5. $2.5 billion in innovation ecosystems for cleantech startups and related small businesses, prioritizing those created by underrepresented founders.

Since TAEBC originally signed on, the TEP coalition supporting the stimulus proposal has grown to include over 100 organizations in 18 states across the country. 

Learn more about TAEBC’s response to the new Administration’s transportation infrastructure plan here.