Nonprofit provides electric car chargers, wildlife rehab
By Iva Butler | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Black Bear Solar Institute, through operating electric vehicle charging stations and demonstrating how solar technology operates, has established a Green Gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Townsend.
The nonprofit group headquartered in Pigeon Forge expanded to Townsend earlier this year, locating in the Trillium Cove Shopping Village off East Lamar Alexander Parkway at 161 Painted Trillium Way in Townsend.
In addition to operating charging stations and providing renewable energy information, proceeds from corporate purchases of 30-year solar module sponsorships will help establish a wildlife rehabilitation facility in a remote area of Townsend.
Once in operation, people will not be allowed to view the animals to keep them from losing their fear of people, according to Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency rules. Instead, cameras will be installed at the wildlife center and people may watch the animals on a TV at the institute.
The building has a theater upstairs, large screen TV immediately inside, classrooms and areas for civic organizations to meet and get information. Wildlife and renewable energy information is available on various topics.
The institute operates electric vehicle charging stations from major metropolitan areas of the state and the interstates to the national park gateway community of Townsend, said Lisa Stewart, vice president and executive director of Black Bear Solar Institute.
The chargers enable electric vehicles to reach and tour the Smokies with no emissions within the park, improving the air quality, she added.
Recently, people driving an electric car went over the mountain to Cherokee. N.C., fully charged for about 100 miles. They recharged the vehicles in Cherokee.
“Electric cars are to the point now that they are very affordable. They’re not just electric cars, but better cars — safe and efficient. It is a good purchase for a family,” Stewart said.
Since the institute opened in May, thousands of visitors have been hosted, some from as far away as California.
People can stop in the office at Trillium Cove and get their electric cars recharged, see demonstrations of solar equipment installation methods and practices.
“One result of this project is to make Townsend the most electric vehicle-friendly city in the world, with more charging stations per capita than any city on earth,” Stewart said.
Charging stations are at Trillium Cove, Laurel Valley Restaurant/Country Club, Townsend Visitor Center, Talley Ho Inn, Carriage House Restaurant and Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, all in Townsend.
They are generating out to Cycology/Little River Trading Company in Maryville, Clayton Center for the Arts at Maryville College, Blount Chamber of Commerce and on to sites in Knoxville.
Corporate sponsors benefit from renewable energy tax credits and deductions.
Land negotiations are under way to purchase property at a remote area in Townsend for the wildlife rehabilitation facility, Stewart said.
Stewart was curator at Appalachian Bear Rescue in Townsend for nine years, having released back to the wild 133 black bear cubs from Tennessee and surrounding states.
She has 22 years of wildlife rehabilitation experience.
The group is currently affiliated with animal rehabilitators and since May have released more than 700 smaller animals back into the wild. These include squirrels, raccoons, opossums, chipmunks and flying squirrels,
Stewart herself has rehabilitated 100 animals since June.
The institute plans to host a course to train rehabilitators, likely in early January. Anyone that wants to sign up can call 865-256-0431.
People can also drop off food at the institute for the small animals, such as Esbilac for Multi-Milk formula.