Seven Rural East Tennessee Counties Serve as State’s Energy Hub

As the country looks for an “all of the above” energy policy, you don’t have to look further than seven East Tennessee counties that stretch from south of Oak Ridge to the Kentucky border to find some answers.  

Campbell, Fentress, Morgan, Pickett, Rhea, Roane and Scott Counties provide a microcosm of the nation’s energy resources—from oil, gas and coal to nuclear, wind and solar.  You can find there the manpower to support the industries, the expertise to utilize them and the research behind evolving new energy resources in what also happens to be Tennessee’s 12th   State Senatorial District.

Senator Ken Yager represents the district, and many are beginning to call him Tennessee’s Energy Senator. “When you stop to think about it, it’s rather remarkable that my district contains such diverse energy technologies and natural resources,” said Yager.  “Starting with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Roane County and its vast expertise in all areas of  energy research from fossil to solar, we have unmatched resources that encompass most every aspect of the energy sector.” 

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey recently appointed Yager to the Nuclear Legislative Workgroup (NLWG) for the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), where he will work with other legislators to share best practices and work together to address challenges related to nuclear energy.

ORNL has projects focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy, including biomass and bioenergy, geothermal, hydrogen, hydropower, solar and wind research.  Additionally, Roane County and Oak Ridge are poised to be home to TVA’s and the nation’s first Small Modular Reactor (SMR) that promises to be a major advancement in providing safer, more affordable nuclear power. And across the highway from the SMR site are two new solar farms located at the East Tennessee Technology Park. 

Roane County is also home to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant, which has nine generating units. Campbell, Scott and Morgan Counties are one of Tennessee’s largest coal-producing areas, and Rhea County is home to TVA’s Watts Bar Nuclear Reactor where they are in the process of building a new billion dollar nuclear reactor.   Morgan County is home to several solar energy resources, and its rail lines are used to transport coal to TVA’s facilities.  Most of the state’s oil and gas permits are located in Fentress County, and Pickett County’s Dale Hollow Lake has several waterways supporting transportation and dams controlled by the Arm Core of Engineers. 

Yager said that these assets, combined with other energy-related projects in the region, like TVA’s Buffalo Mountain Wind Farm in Anderson County, provide a tremendous opportunity for private companies to leverage these resources to create jobs.  

“Whether its construction or management jobs created by Watts Bar, the SMR, or the opportunities to take groundbreaking research and transfer it to the private sector to start companies and solve real-world problems, energy is clearly a way for our region to create quality jobs,” said Yager. 

Yager is currently working on an energy policy statement and plans to work with energy-based organizations in the region to determine how he can best support the continued energy diversity and expansion in East Tennessee.  

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