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Alt Energy: Powering Growth


In a shaky recovery, one thing is certain—the steady increase in alternative energy projects will continue to power jobs growth across the nation into the foreseeable future.

Solar, biofuels and wind—the three benchmark energy technologies—are projected to grow to $325.9 billion within a decade. They are part of a renewable energy industry that it is now the driving force for economic recovery.

According to a recent report issued by Clean Edge Inc., a research and publishing firm for the clean-tech sector, wind power will expand from $63.5 billion in 2009 to $114.5 billion in 2019. The biofuels market, consisting of more than 23.6 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel production worldwide is projected to grow to $112.5 billion by 2019. And solar PV, including modules, components and installation, will grow from a $30.7 billion industry to $98.9 billion by 2019. Wind energy is of particular note, as it is the fastest growing energy source in the world.

The installation of nearly 15,000 megawatts of new generating capacity in the past two years, enough to serve more than 4.4 million homes, broke all previous records, thanks in part to federal stimulus dollars. Recovery Act funding spurred the growth of construction, operations and maintenance, as well as management jobs. As the stimulus funds expire, the private sector is stepping in to fill the void.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) believes the U.S. is barely tapping this renewable resource. Current wind installed capacity is at 35 gigawatts, whereas onshore U.S. wind resources could generate nearly 37 million gigawatts, more than nine times the country’s current electricity consumption. With the federal government providing billions in tax breaks for renewable projects, and many states spurring development through tax incentives and the establishment of renewable energy standards, clean energy has generated huge momentum.

 

Idaho is an Energy Resource

Hydropower has provided Idaho with one of the lowest electricity rates in the nation. As recent as 1995, all of the state’s power came from hydroelectric plants.

Times change.

As the state has grown, the need for more electricity sources has become necessary and the power portfolio has diversified. The state continues to have the second lowest energy costs in the country. But with a history of green energy—including the nation’s only Capitol heated by geothermal energy—Idaho has launched into a full portfolio of renewables.

“Idaho is an appealing location for renewable energy companies,” said Idaho Department of Commerce Director Donald Dietrich. “We have a stable government with a balanced budget and an infrastructure that supports this industry.”

It’s wind energy, however, that has entered Idaho in a big way. Last year, Boise law firm Hawley Troxell facilitated a nearly $500 million joint venture between Exergy Development and a division of GE that owns 122 wind turbines in Idaho. Hawley Troxell attorney Nick Miller anticipates the wind energy business is just getting started in the state.

“There’s significant potential in wind energy in Idaho that has not been realized,” says Miller. “It’s outpacing other renewables right now.”

While wind is certainly the most prevalent renewable resource under development, a full suite of renewables is building in Idaho, according to the state Office of Energy Resources. Biogas, methane, solar and forest biomass are also growing.

Idaho’s Legislature placed an emphasis on encouraging renewable energy in its 2007 Energy Plan. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter then created the Office of Energy Resources and established the Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance to streamline the development of renewable resources.

Idaho’s governor sees a strong future for these industries in Idaho.

“We have unique resources in Idaho with abundant geothermal, hydro, wind, solar and biomass,” said Governor Otter. “In addition to the raw materials, we also have a good business climate for companies interested in manufacturing components for this industry.”

The attractiveness of Idaho’s business climate has drawn a number of renewable energy companies to the state. The state boasts a variety of elements that make it a viable laboratory and manufacturing center for companies focused on the renewables industry.

Two of those elements include the Idaho National Laboratory along with the state’s universities that each has strong programs in renewable energy. Research areas include wind technologies, fuel cells, low-power batteries, electric car technologies, kinetic energy capture, biomass and new alternative fuels. In addition, the state ranks tops in patents per capita in the nation, speaking to the engineering and entrepreneurial talent working there.

Perhaps because of this and other attributes, the Pew Institute named Idaho as the state expected to have the fastest growth for green jobs. Last year, the American Legislative Exchange Council said Idaho had one of the best economic outlooks in the nation.

Clearly, renewable energy is the rising industry for a new decade and Idaho appears poised to rise with it.

“It’s just good business to encourage these industries,” said Governor Otter. “Sustainable, renewable energy is going to play a big role in Idaho’s future. We’re ready for it.”

More information about Idaho’s renewable energy industry can be found at www.renewable.idaho.gov.

Idaho’s low cost of doing business has made it attractive to companies interested in launching and expanding facilities. Many companies also value Idaho’s low cost of living which enables employees to enjoy a higher quality of life at lower wages than other areas. In addition, the state is near the top in virtually all indicators of business and economic vitality.

Companies looking to expanding into Idaho should consider:

• A reasonable income tax. Companies that manufacture and process typically pay much less than the state’s corporate income tax rate because of a generous investment tax credit for capital intensive businesses.

• Idaho is third in the nation for the most reasonable property tax. Then again, there is a good chance that companies won’t pay property tax for the first five years after start up. An Idaho statute allows local counties to make that decision for manufacturing enterprises that invest a minimum of $3 million.

• The Idaho Department of Labor can offer businesses customized recruiting services as well as workforce training. Financial reimbursement up to $3,000/employee is available to eligible companies for training new employees. Idaho’s colleges and universities also offer customized workforce training programs.

View a complete list of state incentives at www.commerce.idaho.gov/business/incentives.

 

Renewable-Ready Riverside

Riverside County is at the forefront of renewable energy development in a state known around the world for its willingness to embrace the promise of solar, wind and geothermal power. The vast Coachella and Palo Verde Valley along with the unique geographic features of the San Gorgonio Pass make Riverside County a natural location for the development of such forward-thinking energy technologies. The region also benefits heavily from the knowledge and research capabilities that can be found at the world-class educational institutions that dot the county’s landscape.

The abundance of sunshine that makes the Coachella Valley a golf getaway destination of the rest of the world also makes the region one of the best in the nation for development of solar power. The region enjoys more than 350 days of sunshine a year, making it a natural for development of solar energy facilities.

The San Gorgonio Pass that links the Coachella Valley with the rest of Southern California creates a landscape that is inherently well suited for the development of wind energy. The area is home to more than 4,000 windmills, including many that have been functioning along Interstate 10 for decades, supplying more than 600 megawatts of power to Palm Springs, surrounding cities and elsewhere. These turbines make up a third of the state’s wind energy capacity.

Finally, the region’s shifting landscape also lends itself to the development of geothermal power resources, known as one of the cleanest renewable power sources available. The same forces that cause earthquakes can aid in the development of energy projects that generate electricity by driving generators with steam from water that is superheated deep within the Earth.

The development of these renewable energy resources is enhanced by the ready availability of some of the sharpest research minds in the world at nearby college campuses. For example, the University of California, Riverside, is known for its contributions to renewable energy technologies, both at the main campus and at the Palm Desert campus, which will be home to the S. Roy Wilson Center for Sustainable Energy and Environmental Systems. In addition, College of the Desert features many training and education programs on its community college campus, including a program that trains wind turbine technicians.

San Antonio: A Green Leader

Commitment to solar, wind makes San Antonio a national “green energy” leader

A massive solar energy power project under construction on a 139-acre tract in southern San Antonio will be Texas’ largest and one of the nation’s largest, solidifying the city’s position as a national leader in alternative, “green” energy.

The installation, known as the Blue Wing Solar Project, will consist of 214,500 ground-mounted, thin-film panels, with a total production capacity of 16 megawatts. Officials have estimated that it would provide enough power for 2,800 homes during the heat of summer in Texas.  Duke Energy Generation Services, developer of Blue Wing, has agreed to sell its output to municipally owned utility CPS Energy over the next 30 years.

Blue Wing will move the San Antonio utility closer to its goal of renewable energy providing 20 percent of its peak power production by 2020. And, the municipal utility in June announced that it will further the city’s leadership in green energy with a multimillion dollar investment in the new Texas Sustainable Research Institute at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

CPS will invest up to $50 million over the next decade in the Institute, which will investigate sustainable technologies that apply to the local area.

“This is a bold step,” Mayor Julián Castro said in a news release announcing the utility’s investment in the research institute. “Ratepayers will get a more efficient utility, the city will get the economic development value of robust research and development in San Antonio, and the university will spiral ever more quickly to Tier One status.”

Les Shephard, an internationally renowned expert on energy policy who joined UTSA earlier this year after a long career at Sandia National Laboratories, will head the institute, formerly known as the Institute for Conventional, Alternative and Renewable Energy.

Shephard said all the pieces are in place for a nationally recognized institute in San Antonio, including the city’s two outstanding utilities— the San Antonio Water System, with a long track record in the area of conservation, and CPS Energy, whose energy-efficiency efforts are newer, but increasingly significant.

Also, the area has a strong foundation of academic and research entities with robust green programs, including the Southwest Research Institute, as well as the Mission Verde Center, a city partnership that includes the Alamo Colleges and Texas A&M University’s Texas Engineering Experiment Station.

In addition to the new solar farm, CPS Energy already is the state’s largest buyer of wind power. That is significant, because Texas has the greatest capacity in the United States for producing electricity from wind.

Also contributing to that renewable energy goal is the utility’s commitment to wind power. It has 500 megawatts of power under contract from wind farms located in West Texas and more on the way. The 500 megawatts would power an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 homes, according to CPS.

The utility has created the Windtricity program to encourage residential and commercial customers to purchase the wind-generated power at a slightly higher cost under a 12- or 24-month contract option. Along with providing those customers an opportunity to do something environmentally friendly, the program provides them with a locked fuel and regulatory price for the term of their agreement, protecting customers against unexpected increases in energy costs and providing them a better way to manage their energy budget.

Commercial customers also have an opportunity to join the Windtricity Business Partners Program, created as a way to recognize businesses that contribute to the growth of renewable energy. The utility recognizes them in advertising and promotional programs and provides assistance in signing up to become EPA Green Power Partners and joining the Department of Energy’s Green Power Partnership Program.

 

Pflugerville, TX: Prime Land Under The Sun

The energy industry has thrived in Texas for more than 100 years, and while Texas has long been known for its oil, the state is abundant in renewable resources such as wind and solar power.

According to the State Energy Conservation Office, Texas has the highest renewable energy potential in the nation and has the opportunity to become a leader in the global market for renewables. In fact, the American Wind Energy Association reports that Texas leads the nation in wind energy production.

Texas is well-positioned to compete nationally and internationally in the global solar energy market for various reasons, including the fact that most of the state gets an average of more than 300 days a year of sunshine; residents’, businesses’ and governments’ eager attitude toward promoting and using renewable energy; an experienced and available workforce; thousands of acres of available land; and a business-friendly climate.

Though the Texas heat might cause some to complain during the summer, it is that bright Texas sunshine that is the source of an abundance of renewable energy in the form of solar power. Most days, Central Texas is sunny, receiving nearly 2650 hours (more than 60 percent of the possible total,) of bright sunshine per year, according to the May 2010 Climatological Report of Austin report by the Hong Kong Observatory. Central Texans are known for being progressive, and Austin is one of the country’s most advanced cities in adopting, using and promoting energy efficient products. In July 2010, Austin, TX, also was named a 2010 Smarter City for Energy by the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Smarter Cities project.

Just 15 miles north of downtown Austin and south of the Dell Inc. headquarters in Round Rock lies the community of Pflugerville. Like Austin, this fast-growing city is located within Travis County, one of the most rapidly growing counties in the state, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. With a population of close to 50,000, Pflugerville is expected to grow to 76,523 by 2016—a 45 to 50 percent increase in population during the next five years. By 2025, the city’s population is expected to double to more than 100,000.

Though Pflugerville has grown quite rapidly during the last decade, more than 5,000 prime acres of land are available and ready for development—a significant portion of which is shovel ready. Specifically, a 100 + acre industrial park is under development and plans are to dedicate it to renewable business and industry. Aggressive incentives will be made available on both a local and state level for companies that want to relocate and/or expand.

Much of this land is near major roadways, including Interstate Highway 35, the main trade corridor for the U.S., Canada and Mexico. State Highways 130 and 45 run through the middle of the city offering an alternate north-south route to IH 35 and a new east-west route through the Austin area and beyond. These highways provide the access that many companies need to transport products or people directly to a desired destination, or to a port where cargo can be shipped out of the country.

An Eco-Friendly Attitude

City and economic development officials in Pflugerville are focused on promoting the use of renewable energy. Recently, the city attracted a company to the area that designs and manufactures electric scooters, bicycles and automobiles.

National Scooter Company’s global headquarters opened in Pflugerville in July 2010, and a charging station for electric vehicles could open in the city in 2011.

The City of Pflugerville successfully located a 60 MW solar energy company named RRE Austin Solar/Pflugerville Solar Farm that will be capable of producing up to 60 megawatts of electricity—enough electricity to power every house in Pflugerville and its extra-territorial jurisdiction.

In addition to various renewable resources, Central Texas also has a large available workforce, including potential employees who are experienced in manufacturing. The Austin area is home to a variety of manufacturing facilities, warehouse and distribution businesses, as well as a highly competitive supply chain management industry with experienced third party logistics services companies. A large, diverse and highly capable talent pool is produced by these businesses.

A well-educated workforce is also renewed annually by the various colleges and universities in Central Texas, including a world-class research institution, The University of Texas at Austin, and also Texas State University, St. Edward’s University, Southwestern University, Concordia University and Austin Community College.

City staff, including planners, city engineers and the city manager, as well as Pflugerville’s local elected officials are welcoming and helpful to businesses looking to locate or expand in the community. With plenty of sunshine, a business-friendly climate, talented and educated workforce, available land and a great transportation infrastructure, Pflugerville is an ideal location for any renewable energy company to prosper.

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