The Governor’s Wind Energy Coalition, a bipartisan group of 29 governors, has called upon Congress to adopt a national renewable energy standard that would set a minimum requirement for the use of renewable electricity. The coalition, chaired by Iowa Gov. Chet Culver, presented a package of recommendations this week, including streamlined permitting for both onshore and offshore wind power projects and an upgraded interstate electric transmission system. The coalition recommends a renewable electricity standard requiring the nation’s utilities to provide a minimum 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources including wind, solar, geothermal and biopower, by 2012. Culver is backing a national renewable energy standard of 25 percent by 2025, which he predicts would create more than 300,000 green-collar jobs. In its recommendations, the coalition called for a goal of providing at least 20 percent of U.S. electricity from wind power by 2030. The call to action by the governors comes as a comprehensive energy bill—the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454), called the Waxman-Markey bill after its primary sponsors—passed by the House of Representatives last fall, remains stalled in the U.S. Senate. The bill, backed by President Obama, includes a controversial cap-and-trade system for reducing carbon emissions. In addition to the renewable electricity standard and a new interstate transmission system, the coalition called for the U.S. Department of Energy to work with states to accelerate wind energy innovation, and an extension of the Treasury Department’s Grant Program in Lieu of the Investment Tax Credit to provide a long-term renewable energy production tax credit with provisions to broaden the pool of eligible investors.
Several U.S. cities are competing for a place in Google’s “Fiber for Communities” program. The Internet giant is going to select several communities for installation of Web connections with speeds 100 times faster than anywhere else, with data transfer rates faster than 1 gigabit per second. Cities have until March 26 to tell Google they’re interested in the venture. Google says it will pick one or more cities for the pilot project. “We’ll offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people,” Google announced. Topeka, KS, population 123,400, has found a unique way to get Google’s attention in the competition—Mayor Bill Burton has changed the name of the state’s capital city. For the rest of this month, Topeka is calling itself “Google, Kansas.” The mayor even had road signs put up with the temporary moniker, one of which reads “Google, Kansas – the capital city of fiber optics.” Bunten admits he is not exactly tech-savvy when it comes to search engines and high-speed broadband. The 79-year-old mayor told CNN.com that he does have an e-mail account, but he lets his assistants take care of his online communications and Web searches. But Bunten firmly believes that younger residents of Topeka in particular will greatly benefit from the faster Internet connections Google is offering. “To have this high-speed where people can sit down and have lunch and still keep working is a positive for young people,” he said. “The young people are the ones that caught onto this and go to the Internet and asked people in the city to sign on as supporting Google coming to Topeka.” Besides, the mayor added, it’s a great way to draw attention to Topeka. “It’s just fun. We’re having a good time of it. There’s a lot of good things that are going on in our city,” he said. Bunten assured CNN the name change is not permanent. “Oh, heavens no, Topeka?” he said. “We are very proud of our city and Topeka is an Indian word which means ‘a good place to grow potatoes.’ We’re not going to change that.” According to local historians, this isn’t the first name change for Topeka. In 1998, former mayor Joan Wagnon temporarily changed the name of the city to “ToPikachu, Kansas,” in reference to the Pikachu anime character, from the show and game called “Pokemon.” This is one bit of good-natured “March Madness” we can endorse. In fact, we are seriously considering giving the mayor of Tinton Falls, NJ a call. […]
Renewable and Sustainable Companies (RASCO has been approved for tax credits that will help locate its headquarters to Flint, MI. RASCO said it will take up to eight weeks before it officially secures the building and starts bring its operations to 2851 Cole Blvd., near Buick City. “We’ll start the relocation into the Flint area and begin in earnest the actual recruitment,” CEO Rick Short said today. The $18.5-million project is expected to create 71 jobs in its first year, which could grow to 765 jobs during the next five years. The facility could also house research and development, an engineering department and assembly operation to build and export its products. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation estimates the economic activity created by the project will create an additional 1,048 indirect jobs. The company uses renewable energy sources to bring sustainable essential services, such as Internet, clean water and electricity, to developing nations overseas. Flint Mayor Dayne Walling said this is a “very exciting” economic development project for the city. “This will have a major impact on our local economy,” he said. “It shows that Flint and Michigan are open for business and are prepared to provide support to companies locating here to help diversify our economy.” RASCO’s credits are worth up to $9 million over the next seven years.
Purdue University plans to get more involved in high-tech economic development efforts across the Northern Indiana Corridor, according to a report posted on SouthBendTribune.com. The effort, called the Northern Indiana Corridor effort, plans to make use of academics and research in high-tech ventures—including packaging, wireless technology, electric vehicles and other “new economy” efforts—to boost the economy, Purdue leaders announced Friday. The effort also will push more collaboration among the Purdue University North Central campus in Westville, the Purdue campus in Calumet, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne and the main campus in West Lafayette. The collaboration will share faculty expertise, facilities and research activity across the four campuses, and involve work with Ivy Tech Community College and other colleges on job development and transfer programs. “We’re planning a concerted effort to grow the economy of northern Indiana through education, technology development and research that is specific to the economic strengths of those communities,” Purdue President France A. Córdova said. North Central has helped create a conservancy district to attract new businesses. The campus also has been active in fostering cooperative economic development efforts in LaPorte County among Michigan City, LaPorte and the county, according to the university. The move is spurred in part by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s goal of creating more effective roles for the state’s regional public university campuses.
San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro has announced that the city has received $3.7 million in federal stimulus funds for solar panels at three locations. The solar panels will be located on buildings at the University of Texas at San Antonio and St. Philip’s College, as well as the city’s Mission Verde Center at Cooper. The three sites are expected to generate 600 kilowatts, nearly tripling the city’s large-scale solar-generation capacity. Currently, the city’s only large-scale solar-energy sources are the Pearl Brewery and a solar landfill cover at Republic Services Inc., a waste-management company. Castro hailed the grants, saying they will enable the city to make a “big step forward for sustainability.” The grants were awarded through the Texas State Energy Conservation Office, with UTSA, St. Philip’s, and the city each filing separate grant applications.
Gov. Bev Perdue has announced that Siemens Energy Inc. will expand its gas turbine operations in Charlotte, NC. The company plans to add 825 jobs and invest at least $135 million over the next five years, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports. The expansion was supported by state grants from the Job Development Investment Grant program and One North Carolina Fund. “Creating jobs is my No. 1 priority and this expansion of hundreds of well-paying jobs for North Carolinians is a big win,” said Gov. Perdue. “Our knowledge-based workforce and our top business climate continue to be attractive to globally-competitive companies looking to expand and locate.” Siemens Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Siemens AG , plans to expand its Westinghouse Boulevard campus and relocate gas turbine manufacturing operations from a plant in Ontario, Canada. The company also previously announced plans to add additional office space for new engineers in Charlotte as it creates a global production hub for manufacturing and related functions for the supply of its gas and steam turbines and generators to markets around the world. The overall average wage for the 825 new jobs will be almost $64,000 a year, not including benefits. That is higher than the Mecklenburg County average of $48,776. The company currently employs 777 workers at the Charlotte site, and more than 60,000 in the United States. “The U.S. is Siemens’ largest market, and this latest strategic business decision further emphasizes our commitment to expand and continue to invest in our U.S. presence. We already supply the power systems that provide one third of the nation’s electricity, and through this expansion in Charlotte, we will be able to continue bringing efficient and competitive power-generation options to customers around the world,” said Michael Suess, CEO of Siemens Energy’s Fossil Power Generation Division. “We’ve had a presence in the Charlotte area and in other areas in North Carolina for decades, and it was our first-hand knowledge of the excellent business environment here that convinced us to expand our investment further. We owe many thanks to the State of North Carolina for its ongoing dedication to our business success.” Other partners who assisted with this project include: the N.C. departments of Commerce and Transportation, N.C. Community Colleges, the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, N.C. Employment Security Commission, Charlotte Chamber, Norfolk Southern and Duke Energy.
The House that Ruth Built is no more.
Pierre Foods, Inc., a leading manufacturer and distributor of fully cooked meats and frozen sandwiches, has selected its existing manufacturing facility in Claremont, NC for a project that will maintain more than 700 and create 500 new jobs over the next three years with an investment of more than $16.8 million. While salaries will vary from position to position, the more than 500 jobs to be created will have an average salary of $26,461 a year, excluding the benefits package. A state grant from the One North Carolina Fund helped make the project possible and helped to retain the existing 717 employees. Headquartered in Cincinnati, OH, Pierre Foods was founded in 1946. Since 1979, Pierre Foods’ Claremont facility has used high quality USDA-inspected meats and hearth-baked breads to produce a wide variety of frozen sandwiches and other handheld products for the food service, school, military, warehouse club, vending and convenience store markets. The Claremont facility is one of Pierre’s most efficient and productive facilities. “Pierre Foods is thrilled at this opportunity to support both growth in our business and economic activity in the state of North Carolina,” said Bill Toler, CEO of Pierre Foods. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with the State and thank all of our dedicated employees within the region for their contributions to our success.” “We’re very grateful that Pierre Foods has selected their Catawba County facility for this expansion. These jobs, both retained and new, will have a real and tangible impact on many families in our county that have been struggling in recent times. We congratulate Pierre Foods on their success and thank them for their faith in the hard-working people of Catawba County,” said Kitty Barnes, chair of the Catawba County Commissioners. “Pierre Foods has been an important member of the Claremont community for over 30 years,” said Claremont Mayor David Morrow. “We are excited to see them grow and become one of the top employers in Catawba County. We wish them continued success and look forward to working with them to keep making Claremont such a great place to live and work.” “It is always very encouraging to see an existing industry such as Pierre Foods grow and provide additional jobs for the citizens of Catawba County,” Tony Rose, chair of the Catawba County EDC Board, said. “We are committed to helping our existing industries thrive and will continue to be fully supportive of their efforts to grow. We look forward to working with Pierre to make this expansion successful.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has enacted deep budget cuts since taking office in January, is now taking aim at the Garden State’s highly touted Clean Energy Program. Gov. Christie notified the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU), which oversees the program, that he is diverting $158 million in clean energy funds to help offset a $2.2-billion state budget deficit. Environmentalists have expressed concern that dozens of clean energy programs may be scaled down, including a generous solar energy rebate program that has made New Jersey a leader in renewable energy. Another program facing the ax provides New Jersey residents with a $50 rebate for recycling their old refrigerators (the program includes free pickup). “If we take this money (out of the budget), we’re basically stopping clean energy projects for the next two years,” Matt Elliott of Environment New Jersey told the Record newspaper. Established in 2003, the state’s Office of Clean Energy funds a diverse slate of renewable energy initiatives, including multimillion-dollar rebates to support offshore wind power production. New Jersey has established a goal of generating 30 percent of its electricity from solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources by 2020. The BPU adopted a $269-million budget in December, of which $168 million was dedicated to rebate commitments for solar and other energy-efficient projects.
Wyoming will have more authority over the siting of wind farms and the state will begin taxing wind energy production under bills that Gov. Dave Freudenthal signed into law Friday, the Billings Gazette reported. The $1-per-megawatt-hour tax on wind energy generated in the state goes into effect in 2012. The wind industry fought the tax bill unsuccessfully this session. Industry lobbyists had urged lawmakers to study the issue more and warned that higher taxes would discourage development. The governor also signed a bill to extend the state’s permitting authority over wind farms and their related collector transmission lines. The third bill he signed sets a moratorium on the use of eminent domain powers to take private land for collector lines until June 30, 2011. A fourth bill was still pending Friday that would set minimum county standards and restrictions for wind developments. In his farewell address to the House and Senate, Freudenthal said passing the wind bills sends the message that while Wyoming welcomes the wind industry, it will only do so on terms that are good for its quality of life and economic development—and only if the industry pays its own way. “I believe that (a tax) should be applied, so all the economic activities in this state are on an equal footing,” Freudenthal said. Cheryl Riley, executive director of the Wyoming Power Producers Coalition, said her group looks forward to working with the governor’s office and the Legislature over the interim to hash out issues related to wind development. Riley told the Gazette her organization supported the bills on the state’s permitting authority and industrial siting standards because they would create regulatory certainty. Riley said her group opposed the tax bill but regards what the Legislature passed as essentially a “placeholder” for the state while it works out details of how it intends to tax the industry in the future.