Chattanooga, TN (October 20, 2016) – EPB welcomed Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) new Chattanooga liaison, Jeff Cornett, during a day of roll-out events that included meetings with local elected officials, community leaders, and representatives from both existing industry and the entrepreneurial community.
The opening of the new ORNL office follows reciprocal visits arranged by Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, of Tennessee’s third congressional district, among leaders in Oak Ridge and Chattanooga.
Cornett, ORNL’s Industrial and Economic Development Manager, will have an office at EPB in Chattanooga’s Innovation District, where ORNL researchers have been working with the Chattanooga utility on grid modernization and technology. In addition to EPB, a number of local entities are coming together in support of the new partnership including Hamilton County, the City of Chattanooga, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, the Enterprise Center and the Tennessee Association of Manufacturers.
EPB Board Chairman Joe Ferguson pointed out that the ORNL partnership is part of EPB’s commitment to enhancing quality of life and economic development for its customers.
“Over the years, Chattanooga has bootstrapped its way into becoming a national leader in areas ranging from downtown revitalization and economic development to the deployment of America’s first community-wide gig network,” Ferguson said. “Imagine what we can accomplish when Chattanooga’s existing industries and entrepreneurs have more opportunities to partner with one of the world’s foremost research centers.”
According to Thom Mason, president and CEO of UT-Battelle, the managing contractor of ORNL, the initiative is designed to broaden interactions between ORNL and the Chattanooga area.
“This effort will help us identify new opportunities for regional cooperation in clean energy technology, manufacturing and computing,” Mason said. “We’re designating Jeff Cornett to work with Chattanooga-based companies and other organizations in an effort to identify additional avenues for research and partnership.”
Cornett joined ORNL in 2008, following leadership roles with the National Safe Skies Alliance and Department of Energy (DOE) Oak Ridge Protective Services. His diverse background represents a unique blend of operational, technical and managerial skills that help him identify practical solutions for issues facing industry, communities and government.
“I look forward to helping Chattanooga’s vibrant business and industrial community find ways to leverage ORNL’s world-class research capabilities and technical expertise to address challenges and advance new technologies,” Cornett said.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke highlighted the importance of increasing interactions between ORNL and Chattanooga’s rapidly growing entrepreneurial community. “Chattanooga has become a national model for how a mid-sized city can successfully implement an innovation strategy,” said Mayor Berke. “Establishing partnerships between local entrepreneurs and ORNL is a great way to enhance those efforts.”
According to Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, the ORNL partnership also holds promise for local education efforts. “On the one hand, we’ll be working with Jeff Cornett as he interacts with the start-up companies located in Hamilton County’s INCubator run by the Chattanooga Chamber,” said Mayor Coppinger. “On the other hand, we’re encouraged that ORNL leaders will also be looking for ways to partner with Hamilton County Schools, UTC, and Chattanooga State.”
In addition to its EPB research, ORNL recently began collaborating with Chattanooga’s Enterprise Center, which is working with a taskforce of organizations to create the Advanced Manufacturing Applications Center with the goal of enhancing the use of 3D-printing technologies by regional companies. The lab also is a partner in the SimCenter, which provides high-performance computing, modeling and simulation at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.
ORNL research with EPB was initially supported with grants from DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability and now with additional funding through DOE’s Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium.
Established as an independent board of the City of Chattanooga in 1935, EPB is a municipally-owned utility that provides electric power and fiber optic communications services as a means of promoting economic development and enhancing quality of life across the local area.
EPB serves nearly 180,000 homes and businesses in a 600 square-mile area that includes greater Chattanooga, as well as parts of surrounding counties and areas of North Georgia.
In 2010, EPB became the first provider in the United States to deliver up to 1 Gig (1,000 mbps) internet speeds utilizing a community-wide fiber optic network that provides access to every home and business in its service area. In 2015, EPB became the first (and to date) only American ISP to make up to 10 Gig (10,000 mbps) internet speeds accessible to all of its residential and commercial customers as a standard offer.
EPB has also utilized its community-wide fiber optic network to deploy the most advanced and highly automated smart grid power management system in the nation. In recognition of EPB’s groundbreaking infrastructure, the Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are utilizing EPB’s smart grid as a national model for researching and developing best practices. EPB is also the first major power distribution utility to earn the USGBC’s PEER certification for having a highly automated, modernized electric power grid.