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Cheatham Co. School District Receives TVA funds for Sycamore High Solar Panel Project

A vital TVA initiative is helping the Cheatham County School District (CCSD) apply data and innovative technologies to construct a solar pavilion at Sycamore High School to support the development of a solar energy Career and Technical Education program and introduce solar science to students.

The “Economic Solutions Through Solar Innovation” project is being considered for funding by TVA’s Connected Communities initiative, which uses community-driven information and the newest technology solutions to address challenges that include broadband access, environmental risk monitoring, digital literacy training and next-generation career options.

TVA is working with communities on pilot projects they value. The Cheatham County School District will share more than $3 million in grant funding from TVA in 2022 and 2023 after review. The goal of the Connected Communities initiative is to support the best services for the people and businesses who depend on them.

With this grant, the CCSD plans to construct a 50kW solar array with a Tesla Powerwall backup. The technology demonstration will allow the CCSD to save in annual energy costs, extend the operation of critical facility functions with battery storage and provide Career and Technical Education (CTE) opportunities for students to excel in post-secondary careers.

Additionally, the CCSD plans to submit a proposal to the Tennessee Department of Education for a special CTE program of study with a solar energy focus.

“We are beyond excited to receive this grant from the TVA. Our district has been researching solar possibilities since early 2020, and this project will add a new dimension in learning and teaching to our students. As a ‘hands-on’ tool, the solar panel system will not only allow students to actually see specific examples of renewable energy, but it will also give the classroom teacher a unique teaching tool that is ‘real-world’ to students. The solar display will serve as an important learning tool to stimulate interest in a growing industry of renewable energy,” said Cheatham County Director of Schools Dr. Cathy Beck.

The “Economic Solutions Through Solar Innovation” project was selected from more than 40 organizations that applied for funding during the initial call for pilots in late 2021. Each selected project supports at least one of three focus areas of the TVA Connected Communities initiative:

  • Equitable Access to Services: Services through broadband, modern technology and the knowledge and empowerment to use it.

  • Economic Empowerment: Economic security and the ability to contribute to a modern, 21st Century economy to the best of their ability.

  • Energy & Environmental Justice: A healthy environment) and reliable, affordable and clean energy.

The TVA Connected Communities initiative is one of the concepts TVA is initiating as part of the Energy System of the Future to help achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. In February, the TVA Board of Directors approved exploration of advanced nuclear technology as part of its development of innovative, cost-effective technologies to support its aspirational goal of a net-zero carbon energy future. Other technologies TVA is exploring include next-generation energy storage, carbon capture, new hydroelectric pumped storage and hydrogen. TVA continues to expand its renewable energy portfolio, including the targeted addition of up to 10,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2035.

Dr. Joe Hoagland, vice president, TVA Innovation & Research, said production of low- and no-emission power is an important, but not the only, part of the energy equation for TVA’s seven-state service region. “It is essential for local communities to be positioned to take full advantage of TVA’s Energy System of the Future,” he said. “During the past year, the Connected Communities team and community partners have been working to understand Valley challenges, align best practices and build a roadmap to tomorrow.”

Bonnie Latta, senior project lead of the TVA Connected Communities initiative, explained that her team is assisting community leaders to prepare for the future by helping them to develop strategies that leverage technology and data. “Connected Communities is all about helping local leaders create plans through local teams, which is important for creating enduring benefits for people and businesses,” said Latta. “We are pleased to help interested communities build a localized strategy and implement a plan. By working in partnership with Valley communities and local power companies, we are continuing to make TVA’s seven-state region the best place in the country to live, work and raise a family.”

To learn more about TVA’s Connected Communities initiative, including resources and tools for communities to implement their own Connected Communities initiatives, please visit or email your inquiry to


  • Chattanooga, Tennessee. Connectivity and Health in Orchard Knob: A Smart Community Model for Equitable Access to Services for the 21st Century – Bringing together expanded public Wi-Fi, digital literacy training, digital resources, home weatherization and telehealth to residents of Orchard Knob.

  • Cheatham County, Tennessee. Economic Solutions Through Solar Innovation – Constructing a solar pavilion at Sycamore High to support the development of a solar energy Career and Tech Education program and introducing solar science to students.

  • Columbus, Mississippi. ACTNow (Access, Connectivity, Tools) – Developing a digital literacy training program for Columbus Housing Authority residents that provides an opportunity for those that complete the training to earn a Wi-Fi hotspot and laptop of their own.

  • Knoxville, Tennessee. Alerting Elders and Trusted Social Networks Living in Environmental Justice Communities About Indoor and Outdoor Risks to Their Health – Developing an environmental risk monitoring system to alert elders and their support networks of potentially hazardous environmental conditions.

  • Knoxville, Tennessee. Building the Future of East Tennessee's Workforce: Creating Pathways for Early Learners to the Skills, Jobs, and Opportunities in Our Region – Producing a video series to increase awareness of vocational and STEM careers, aimed at K-8 students and airing on PBS of East Tennessee.

  • Knoxville, Tennessee. Community Connections: Tech Upgrades at City of Knoxville Recreation Centers – Improving 15 community centers to provide residents access to high-technology study spaces, computers and improved Wi-Fi.

  • Lynnville, Elton, and Minor Hill, Tennessee. Community Hotspots – Installing public Wi-Fi access points in communities’ downtown areas.

  • Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The Power of Connectivity: Providing Wi-Fi Access and Education to New Affordable Housing Projects – Developing additional wireless infrastructure and basic digital literacy classes for residents as part of the ongoing renovation of several properties of the Murfreesboro Housing Authority.

  • Water Valley, Mississippi. Base Camp Coding Academy Phase 2 – Expanding an existing software development training program to support non-traditional students.

TVA’s Connected Communities pilot projects will be awarded funding after successful completion of required reviews. TVA contributes 70 percent of the project’s total costs, and pilot teams will contribute 30 percent... Work on the pilot projects is expected to begin this summer.

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