Oak Ridge’s foundation as a scientific community does give it unique situations and opportunities when it comes to the environment. The environment and environmental research are considered top priorities at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories. The Environmental Sciences Division (ESD) of ORNL describes itself as “an interdisciplinary research and development organization with more than 60 years of achievement in local, national, and international environmental research. Our vision is to expand scientific knowledge and develop innovative strategies and technologies that will strengthen the nation's leadership in creating solutions to help sustain the Earth’s natural resources.”
Environmental Management is the largest Oak Ridge program with cleanup projects restoring the area from over 50 years of energy research and weapons production. The project is aggressively attempting to complete its goals by the year 2008, and much has already been accomplished.
ORNL is one of 17 sites in four states in which the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has established photovoltaic (PV) systems to generate solar power as part of the Green Power Switch. Solar power is one of the cleanest sources of power available, and Oak Ridge helps to educate the community about its benefits at the American Museum of Science and Energy (AMSE). The museum contains a 17-kilowatt solar installation with 400 PV modules to allow visitors a close-up look at how solar power is harnessed. AMSE, previously called the American Museum of Atomic Energy, broadened its focus in 1978 to focus on other areas of science and interest, including environmental issues. Today its interactive exhibits feature fossil fuels and alternative energy sources.
Many areas of Oak Ridge and the East Tennessee region are protected by the government. 1275 acres in Oak Ridge are owned by the city marked as Greenbelts for public enjoyment such as hiking and bird watching. Protecting these areas aids in the preservation of the natural environment in the area.