March, 2010 Archives

Rebuilding Haiti to Cost $3.9 Billion

Rebuilding Haiti to Cost $3.9 Billion

The Haitian government this week presented to international donors at a special United Nations conference in New York a $3.9-billion plan to rebuild the country, which was devastated by a Jan. 12 earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people. The plan calls for shifting economic development away from the Haitian capital of Port au Prince to a series of new economic development zones linked to new roads, airports and port facilities. It is the first step in a reconstruction program that Haiti hopes will funnel more than $11-billion in international aid into the country over the next 10 years. “Rebuilding Haiti does not mean returning to the situation that prevailed before the earthquake,” the 56-page Action Plan for National Recovery and Development says. “It means addressing all these areas of vulnerability, so that the vagaries of nature or natural disasters never again inflict such suffering or cause so much damage and loss.” Haiti’s redevelopment plan is divided into two phases—an immediate stabilization and recovery period that lasts 18 months and costs $3.9-billion and a longer-term 10-year plan that focuses on economic growth and poverty reduction and could cost an extra $7.2-billion. The recovery plan sets targets for re-housing 1.3 million homeless people and rebuilding 1,300 schools and 50 destroyed hospitals. It also calls for refurbishing the Port-au-Prince airport, relocating the main port, building two new regional airports, two new sea ports and over 600 kilometers of new roads to promote trade and tourism. The plans call for establishing new economic zones in Cap Haitien, Les Gonaives, St. Marc, Hinche and Les Cayes to ease pressure on Port-au-Prince, which prior to the earthquake accounted for 65% of Haiti’s economic activity and 85% of all government tax revenues. Currently, there are approximately 1.2-million people living in over 460 emergency squatter camps in Haiti.. The report says at least 250,000 people are living in 21 camps that pose serious health and safety risks and need to be relocated immediately.


Tampa, Atlanta Least-Expensive for Business

Tampa, Atlanta Least-Expensive for Business

Very competitive labor costs along with moderately-low office/industrial leasing and sales tax costs help make Tampa the least-costly place to do business among 22 U.S. cities/locations with populations exceeding 2 million, according to a study by KPMG LLP, the audit, tax and advisory firm. Atlanta was the second most cost-competitive location in the large-cities category, followed by Miami and Baltimore, ranking third and fourth, respectively.  Among other locations that performed well in the study were Dallas-Fort Worth, St. Louis, Houston and Phoenix, all with business costs below the U.S. baseline. The most expensive places to do business in the large-cities category were Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, according to the study. “Our study offers a comprehensive guide for comparing business costs in the United States and contains valuable information for any company seeking a cost advantage in locating a business operation, especially in the current economic climate,” said Hartley Powell, national leader for KPMG’s Global Location and Expansion Services practice. “Selecting the best site for a business operation requires balanced consideration of many factors, including business costs, business environment, personnel costs and quality-of-life issues.” KPMG’s 2010 Competitive Alternatives study measured 26 significant cost components including labor, taxes, real estate and utilities, as they apply to 17 industries, over a 10-year planning horizon, as well as data on a variety of non-cost-competitive factors. The study enables companies to perform a “quick scan” of jurisdictions to determine which can offer a cost-competitive business environment. According to the study, Tampa had a cost index of 96.0, representing business costs 4.0 percent below the U.S. national baseline of 100.0. Tampa was followed closely by Atlanta at 96.3, Miami at 97.0 and Baltimore at 97.1. Atlanta’s ranking was driven primarily by very competitive business-operating costs in such areas as office leasing, transportation, labor, and employee benefits, along with a favorable effective corporate-tax rate. Miami benefited from low labor and transportation costs, while Baltimore was helped by low property tax and sales tax costs. Dallas-Fort Worth, with a cost index of 97.7, ranked fifth among the large U.S. cities and profited mostly from very low natural gas and office leasing costs.  St. Louis ranked sixth with a cost index of 97.8, benefiting from very competitive salary and wage costs and very low industry lease costs. In fact, St. Louis tied with Chicago for the lowest industrial-lease cost among the 22 large cities in the study. Houston and Phoenix ranked seventh and eighth, with cost indexes of 97.9 and 98.1, respectively.  Houston also benefited from […]


Utah Wants to Grab Federal Land

Utah Wants to Grab Federal Land

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has authorized the use of eminent domain to take some of the U.S. government-owned land in the state and turn it over to economic developers. Federal-owned land accounts for more than 60 percent of the acreage in Utah. Herbert has signed a pair of bills into law intended to level the playing filed for economic development on energy-rich parcels that currently are owned by the federal government. Utah’s move is intended to provide the basis for a U.S. Supreme Court challenge to vast government land holdings. State officials told the Associated Press they hope Utah’s initiative will prompt other Western states that are home to large federal land holdings to join the fight, but they state attorneys conceded that a favorable ruling is a long-shot. But Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff says the case is still worth fighting, since the state could reap millions of dollars for state schools each year if it wins. Initially, the state would target three areas for the use of eminent domain, including the Kaiparowits plateau in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is home to large coal reserves. President Bill Clinton designated the area as a national monument in 1996, a move that stopped development on the land. Eminent domain would also be used on parcels of land where Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last year scrapped 77 oil and gas leases around national parks and wild areas, officials said. Utah lawmakers contend the federal government should have long ago sold the land it owns in the state. Because it hasn’t, they say, the federal government has violated a contract made with Utah when statehood was granted. Utah officials are hoping that the current Supreme Court’s flexibility on the issue of eminent domain will tilt the Court in favor of a bid to apply it to federal land. In a highly controversial ruling in 2005, the Court upheld the seizure of private residential property for a commercial development that was eventually abandoned in Connecticut.


NY OKs $279M for Small-Scale Energy Projects

NY OKs $279M for Small-Scale Energy Projects

New York State’s Public Service Commission has approved a $279-million funding package for small-scale renewable energy projects over the next five years. The plan approved yesterday will help thousands of homeowners and businesses to install solar panels, fuel cells, wind turbines and other renewable energy devices, the Commission said. The $279 million funding package will come from the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard initiative. In addition, the Commission said $150 million would be made available for large-scale solar photovoltaic, anaerobic digestion and fuel cell projects in and around the Hudson Valley and New York City, Brighter Energy.org reported. “In these difficult economic times, we are keeping our focus on the long-term need to support the investment in renewable energy. The development and expansion of our critically important renewable energy resources will allow us to take greater control of our energy future,” said Gary Brown, PSC chairman. For the smallscale funding program, equipment up to 50kW will be eligible for funding, which breaks down into $144 million for solar photovoltaic projects, $70.5 million for anaerobic digesters, $21.6 million for fuel cell projects and $18.1 million for small wind turbines. For the first time, solar heating projects will also receive support, with the technology allocated $24.7 million. New York is striving to meet a target under its RPS to source 30% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015. The Public Service Commission claimed that its funding program would see 466,000 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity generated over its five year period – enough power to supply 72,000 homes.


EnerDel Plans Lithium Battery Plant in Indiana

EnerDel Plans Lithium Battery Plant in Indiana

Lithium battery-maker EnerDel is planning a new manufacturing plant at the Mount Comfort Business Park in Hancock County, IN. The company says it expects to employ 1,100 people at the facility over the next five years. The company expects to invest $277 million in the plant. EnerDel also is seeking a $480 million federal loan from the Department of Energy to underwrite its expansion. EnerDel will receive state and local government incentives worth $53.1 million in exchange for its expansion commitment. Hancock County will provide $30 million in incentives, primarily in the form of tax abatements. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. is offering another $21.3 million in performance-based incentives. The average wage for EnerDel’s new jobs is expected to be $18.50 per hour. EnerDel looked at sites across central Indiana, including Marion and Hamilton counties, and locations in Michigan, before selecting the Hancock County site. According to CB Richard Ellis , which represented EnerDel in its search, EnerDel was attracted to the Mount Comfort site because it is shovel ready. Last September, Browning Inc. completed construction on a pair of buildings there designed for light manufacturing or distribution. EnerDel chose the larger of the two, a 423,000-square-foot facility with multiple back doors and cross-docking.


Colorado Adopts 30% Renewable Energy Standard

Colorado Adopts 30% Renewable Energy Standard

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter has signed a bill mandating that the state generate 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Ritter said the bill, which also requires that at least 3 percent of electric power come from solar projects, would create “thousands” of new jobs and 100,000 new solar rooftops over the next decade. “Today we continue to chart a new course for Colorado’s New Energy Economy and America’s clean energy economy,” Gov. Ritter said, signing the bill at SolSource, Inc., a Denver-based solar installation company. “Colorado is giving every state and the entire nation a template for tomorrow. This is a game-changer. We are transforming the future of Colorado and our country.” The new 30% renewable energy goal follows on from Colorado’s 10% by 2015 target, as adopted in 2004, and takes over from a 20% by 2020 target set in 2007. The action by Colorado brings the total of states with Renewable Electricity Standards to 29, with Colorado’s 30% among the highest targets thus far. California has set the highest goal, a 33 percent target. Sponsors of the renewable energy standard legislation said Colorado has attracted more than 230 solar companies to our state. The bill states that energy will have to come from renewable or recycled energy sources to count towards the Standard. Recovered heat and energy-from-waste will count, but nuclear power will not. Utilities would have to increase the proportion of electricity sourced from renewable projects from 3% in 2007 to 5% for the period 2008-2010, then requirements increase to 12% from 2011 to 2014, up to 20% for 2015 through 2019, then 30% in the years following. Power suppliers will also have to provide a growing proportion of power from distributed generation systems—small-scale renewable projects—under the Bill. This rises from 0.5% of retail sales in 2010 up to 2% from 2011 to 2014, 3% from 2015 through 2019 and 3.5% from 2020. Companies will have the incentive to develop utility-scale renewable energy plants within Colorado, by being allowed to count an extra 250 watts of energy towards the Standard for every kilowatt generated in utility-scale plants located inside state boundaries. The bill also seeks to set up a rebate program that would provide financial incentives for renewable equipment below 100 kW in scale. The rebates would be around $2 for every watt a utility customer produces above their requirements.



Great Leap Forward

  The people may be made to follow a path of action, but they may not be made to understand it. — Confucius A long-simmering dispute between Google and the government of the People’s Republic of China appears to be coming to a head this week, as the Internet search giant began re-directing traffic from its google.cn Chinese-language search engine to its google.com.hk site, based in Hong Kong. With this action, Google has taken a giant leap over the great wall of censorship the Chinese government has tried to maintain between its 1.3 billion citizens and information the Chinese leaders don’t want them to have. Web searches by China’s huge pool of Web users—the largest in the world, an estimated 400 million people—that were routed through Google’s mainland-China based servers were run through the PRC’s censorship filter, which blocked access to Web pages that made the rulers unhappy (think TiananmenSquare.com). The Hong Kong servers are filter free. Google says it made the move as a last-ditch compromise to preserve its technology business in China, which employs more than 600 people on the mainland. A few months ago, the California-based search titan accused agents of the PRC government of hacking into its servers to gather some dirt on Chinese dissidents. For a brief time after the hacking incident, Google shut down the censorship filter on its mainland servers, raising the ire of the Chinese politburo. The filter eventually was restored and intense negotiations ensued. The U.S. government, meanwhile, has been conspicuously silent about this issue, treating it as private business matter. Google is gambling that the Chinese government will not take the drastic step of extending the censorship curtain to Hong Kong, which under an international agreement transferring control of the island from Great Britain to China in 1999 has been able to maintain a separate, more open system than the iron fist that rules the mainland. However, Google apparently is preparing for the worst and may soon exit China altogether. Market analysts already are speculating that Google’s worst-case scenario will be a boon to Google’s competitors, including Microsoft’s Bing and China’s emerging home-grown search products. We hope not. The recent history of engagement between Western high-tech companies and China has been sullied by the eagerness with which the companies dispose of their principles as they salivate over the massive Chinese market. The most notorious example of this was Yahoo’s willingness to provide the Chinese secret police with confidential user information, a shameful act that may have sent hundreds of Chinese to […]


Ohio Approves 348-Megawatt Wind Farm

Ohio Approves 348-Megawatt Wind Farm

The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) has approved agreements that  will allow two wind energy developers to construct up to 227 wind turbines in the Hardin County, OH the Ada Herald reports. Up to 348 megawatts will be generated from the turbines, which will make the Hardin Wind Energy Farm the largest in the state. Construction is projected to begin later this year on the developments, undertaken by JW Great Lakes Wind, LLC (JWGL) and Hardin Wind Energy, LLC (HWL). JWGL plans up to 27 wind turbines that can produce up to 48 MW of power, at a wind farm that will be located between Ada and Dola.
HWL expects to construct up to 200 wind turbines yielding 300 MW on properties south of Alger and McGuffey. OPSB Chairman Alan R. Schriber called the projects “an important step forward for Ohio’s alternative energy industry.” “The Hardin Wind Energy wind farm will become the largest of its kind in Ohio.
Wind projects such as this provide clean, renewable electricity and help to ensure Ohio meets the new alternative energy portfolio standard,” Schriber told the Herald. Under Ohio’s alternative energy portfolio standard, by 2025, 25 percent of electricity sold in Ohio must be generated from alternative energy sources. At least half of this energy must come from renewable energy sources, including wind, and one half of the renewable energy facilities must be located in Ohio. The construction phase, beginning this year, is expected to provide between 50 and 100 temporary construction jobs. The project will also include a 69 kilovolt overhead transmission line that will connect to American Electric Power’s (AEP) substation in Dunkirk, OH.


Chevron Unveils Solar Testbed in CA

Chevron Unveils Solar Testbed in CA

Chevron Corp. has unveiled a huge solar energy test facility in California, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The oil giant  has revealed that it filled an 8-acre site in Bakersfield, CA  with 7,700 solar panels to test low-cost energy systems for its operations. The panels, in various sizes, represent seven cutting-edge photovoltaic technologies from seven companies that Chevron reportedly is considering as possible candidates to power its operations worldwide.
Chevron, which has operations in 100 countries, told the Los Angeles Times it is seeking panels that cost less and are more reliable and efficient than what’s available today. “We’re quite a large company that uses quite a lot of energy,” Des King, president of Chevron Technology Ventures, told the LA Times. King’s division evaluates alternative energy technologies. The test complex just outside Bakersfield is the latest in a move by large companies to tap emerging technologies as a way to cut energy costs.

BP Solar, a subsidiary of British oil  giant BP, designs, manufactures and markets solar products and says it invests more than $10 million annually in photovoltaic research and development. Royal Dutch Shell has invested more than $1 billion in alternative energy projects. Chevron plans to spend at least $2 billion more over the next three years on renewable power ventures and research. Chevron researchers will study how the panels perform against a benchmark system provided by Japanese firm Sharp Electronics Corp. The entire system, known as Project Brightfield, is located on the site of a former refinery tank yard that Chevron used from the early 1900s until 1986 and was later demolished. Six of the solar panel companies—Sharp, Abound Solar, Schuco, Solar Frontier Ltd., Solibro and MiaSole of Santa Clara, Calif.‚provided thin-film panels. Innovalight Inc., based in Sunnyvale, Calif., was the sole supplier of crystalline-silicon panels. The panels will produce about 740 kilowatts of electricity that will be used to power the pumps and the pipelines operated at Chevron’s Kern River oil field facility nearby. Extra power will be transferred to the local Pacific Gas & Electric Co. utility grid under a metering system that gives Chevron credit for the excess energy.