Knoxville, Tenn., company busy with solar, energy efficiency projects

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Solar, energy efficiency and other clean energy technologies are helping Knoxville-based ARiES Energy create jobs and grow Tennessee’s economy. ARiES’ mission: to make clean energy easy, accessible and affordable for its clients.

Since its founding in 2011, ARiES has seen revenues double every year. It now employs 10 workers in production, sales and other roles.

ARiES works on projects across Eastern Tennessee.

For example, in early June 2014, a row of scaffolding went up along one side of the Three Rivers Market in Knoxville. Soon, the market’s rooftop was transformed into a busy worksite, as contractors and employees from ARiES began installing a 50-kilowatt solar PV array.

About 10 days after construction began — on the summer solstice, no less — the array was commissioned, delivering via a Made-in-the-U.S.A. inverter enough clean, renewable electricity to offset the burning of nearly 50,000 pounds of coal annually.

The project took advantage of a TVA Green Power Providers program and the federal Investment Tax Credit, an economy-expanding tax incentive that’s scheduled to expire at the end of 2016 unless Congress steps in to renew it.

For Jacqueline Arthur, general manager of Three Rivers Market, investing in the array was a no-brainer.

“For any financially conservative, locally-owned, values-based business or organization with a long-term commitment to our region, it is the right thing to do,” she said. “The financial, environmental, and social return on the investment is unequivocal.”

In addition to the Three Rivers Market, ARiES has done commercial solar installations above a beer garden in Knoxville, atop the elephant house at the Knoxville Zoo and above a pottery studio in Morristown’s historic downtown district.

Beyond solar, ARiES has also built a biomass gasification plant and completes lighting retrofits as well. At the restaurant 212 Market in Chattanooga, for instance, ARiES completed a lighting retrofit that replaced existing overhead lighting with energy efficient lighting, reducing the restaurant’s lighting energy by 71 percent.

It will take less than three years for the restaurant to earn back its initial investment.

—Environmental Entrepreneurs