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FEATURE STORY: High-Tech Hubs Are Moving To Their Markets

Google’s reception area in Bakery Square in the Steel City.

By Jenny Vickers
From the September/October 2012 issue

When you think of U.S. tech hubs, Silicon Valley, Boston, New York City and other areas certainly come to mind. However, technology companies are realizing that to be truly global, they need to tap innovation at more locations and in new high-growth markets. This means that new hot spots of tech innovation are springing up in places like Kansas City, the site of Google’s new high speed Google Fiber network, and Pittsburgh, a new hotbed for innovative tech start-ups.

Some of the locations already are  well-known for developing the next generation of technologies, such as Austin, home to Dell, Apple, Facebook and Google, and Tucson, with its hotbed of solar technology innovation. Regardless of where they are located, these regions all have a few things in common: a large talent pool with lower costs of doing business, innovative technology development, and regional development support. If technology makes the world go ‘round, then these new tech clusters are certainly starting to spin.

Pittsburgh, PA is a Top-ranked Tech City
Pittsburgh was recently ranked by Forbes as one of the “Top 10 Up and Coming Tech Cities” in the nation. Groundbreaking discoveries being made at the region’s leading research institutions, including the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University have made the region a hotbed for high-tech start-ups. Successful partnerships between academia and industries are regularly developing new products and technologies.

One of Pittsburgh’s top regional strengths is its Information and Communications (ICT) industry, which includes nearly 1,600 ICT firms with more than 26,000 employees and 6,000 computer and electrical engineers. In the past decade, nearly $1.8 billion in venture capital was invested in emerging regional business and 300 ICT companies announced plans to add more than 8,600 jobs in the region from 2003-2011.

California-based software development company, Smith Micro Software, has established a significant presence in the Pittsburgh region. The company, which develops software applications for mobile platforms, opened its R&D center in southwestern Pennsylvania in 2010.

With the company counting major conglomerates such as Verizon, AT&T, Dell and Microsoft as clients, its growth potential is evidenced by a global market of mobile broadband users that totals 300 million now and is expected to grow to 3 billion in the next 10 years.

Smith Micro has received $1.8 million in state incentives, including a $1 million opportunity grant, $125,000 in job training assistance and $696,000 in job creation tax credits.

To make downtown Pittsburgh more attractive to technology-driven, innovative companies, the local real estate community has developed Larimer’s Bakery Square and the proposed Bakery Square 2.0, as well as co-working space such as Revv Oakland, Beauty Shoppe and StartUptown. Companies located here include the University of Pittsburgh’s Roar Lab, UPMC’s Technology Development Center and Google’s new office.

Google’s growth in the city has helped put Pittsburgh in the top tier of regional technology sites. Over the summer, the company expanded into a 40,000-square-foot office in Larimer’s Bakery Square.

Google’s Pittsburgh site has focused on three areas of work: the Google Product Search, which presents items available for online purchase; work that determines which ads to display based on a search query; and search infrastructure, which handles the computer systems fueling every result page.

At Google’s Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) location, the company is a roommate with the Apple Pittsburgh office and the local Intel Research Lab, among others.

“Nearly five years ago, we announced that we would begin building an engineering presence in Pittsburgh, a city with a strong technology ecosystem, as well as an entrepreneurial spirit and great quality of life,” said Andrew Moore, Engineering Director, Google Pittsburgh. “Since then, we’ve grown from two engineers to more than 150, and we’re continuing our commitment to growth in the region as we’ve officially opened a new Google Pittsburgh office in an old Nabisco factory in Bakery Square. The Collaborative Innovation Center at Carnegie Mellon University had been our home since 2006, and our relationship with CMU remains invaluable to us.”

Other new tech expansions in the Pittsburgh region include:

  • The Resumator: 8 new jobs; recently expanded to 8,000 SF to accommodate growth; develops Web 2.0 recruiting software; President Obama’s re-election website is using The Resumator to power hiring.
  • M*Modal: 120 new jobs, CMU spinout focused on voice recognition technology, taking on two additional floors in current space  —27,000 square feet
  • Vivisimo: 25 new jobs, IBM recently acquired the Squirrel-Hill based search technology company; Vivisimo also recently unrolled a mobile version of its customer service product.
  • UPMC Technology Development Center (TDC): 16 new jobs, 31,000 SF expansion at Bakery Square with an option to expand to 48,000 SF; the TDC identifies, analyzes and develops new solutions to address health care’s greatest challenges and create the next generation of health care IT products.
  • Carnegie Learning: 105 new jobs, additional space in the Frick Building; provides innovative, research-based math curricula for middle school, high school and post-secondary students; recently teamed up with NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, to produce ‘Decision 2012: Election Math.’
  • Tiversa: 25 new jobs, a cybersecurity company that recently expanded into a $2.6M, seven-story, 48,000-square-foot building in downtown Pittsburgh.
  • Medallion Analytics Software: 11-16 new jobs, provides software that enables better communication across the loan origination process; closed on a $1.5M funding round.

Austin: A Tech Hotbed Grows in the Southwest
Austin, Texas has emerged in recent years as a new technology powerhouse, ranking No. 5 on a list of the nation’s leading high-tech metro areas by a national publication, the Atlantic Cities. The study’s ranking index combined a measure of the concentration of high-tech companies (based on the Milken Institute’s Tech-Pole Index) and two measures of regional innovation, patents per capita and average annual patent growth.

And it’s no surprise. The northern Texas city hosts the start-up fest South by Southwest every year and is home to computer giant Dell and top operators such as Apple, Facebook and Google. The city also has a lower cost of living and doing business than other technology centers on the coast and a growing base of engineering talent. Today, more than 3,800 technology companies and 91,000 technology employees call Austin home.

2011 was a record year for tech development in Austin, which saw the addition of 1,000 new tech establishments, 6,000 new tech jobs and 45 regional tech company expansions—the largest increase in over a decade. Regional investment announcements increased 13 percent as well, totaling over $1.1 billion.

Austin is becoming well known for its development of mobile Internet technology, the technology that is rapidly changing how people access the Internet and communicate with friends, bank and make purchases.

The city is home to year-old Chaotic Moon Studios, the team behind multiple groundbreaking mobile brands such as News Corps’s The Daily, The Discovery Channel, Groupon and Best Buy. With more than 60 patents in process, Chaotic Moon Labs incubates, develops, launches and monetizes internal hardware and software innovations as well as manages Chaotic Moon’s investments in other mobile companies.

Chaotic Moon Labs joins other mobile tech companies in Austin including Mutual Mobile, which has created a shopping app for Google, and Phunware, which developed an app for the Discovery Channel show “Mythbusters” as well as the popular Petfinder app.

Austin’s 30-year software and semiconductor industry has proven to be a strong foundation for some of the newer-generation companies. With early investments from corporations such as Motorola and AMD, in addition to the location of two national research consortia, MCC and SEMATECH, the semiconductor industry in Austin has evolved to include the entire value chain from R&D to materials and chips, hardware, software, systems and services.

Samsung’s semiconductor factory in Austin is well known—its investment in Austin represents the largest foreign investment in U.S. history. The facility is the largest fab in the U.S. and is the company’s only semiconductor plant outside of Korea. Samsung joins a host of semiconductor companies which are all headquartered or have significant operations in Austin including AMD, Applied Materials, Freescale, IBM, Intel and Tokyo Electron.

Samsung recently announced it will invest nearly $4 billion dollars to expand and renovate its manufacturing plant, creating 600 new permanent jobs and 3,000 construction jobs. Samsung’s total investment in Austin now exceeds $13 billion.

The remodeled facility is slated to start mass production during the second half of 2013, mainly producing 28-nm system-on-a-chip (SoC) solutions for tablets and smartphones.

According to Samsung, the renovations are needed to better meet the rapidly growing demands of its OEM customers for mobile chip technology.

“We are extremely pleased to extend our presence in Austin and reinforce Samsung’s capacity for highly advanced logic products,” said Woosung Han, president of Samsung Austin Semiconductor, in a press statement. “The added ability in production will allow our customers to better respond to market needs.”

Apple, Inc. also is moving ahead with a proposed plan to create a major operations center in Austin. The tech titan will be investing $304 million in the plan, which will involve hiring 3,600 workers over the next decade. Apple is in line to receive $21 million as part of the state’s business incentives program.

“Apple is known for its bold innovation and game-changing designs, and the expansion of their Austin facility adds to the growing list of visionary high-tech companies that have found that Texas’ economic climate is a perfect fit for their future, thanks to our low taxes, reasonable and predictable regulations, fair legal system and skilled workforce,” said Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a statement.

Greater Kansas City: Silicon Prairie
Greater Kansas City, which straddles the Kansas and Missouri state line, has all the pieces in place for the making of a vibrant technology and entrepreneur community. The region is home to tech giants Sprint Nextel Corp. and Cerner Corp., as well as a growing number of tech start-ups and entrepreneurs.

In 2011, the Wall Street Journal featured the Kansas City area as one of seven national up-and-coming growing innovation centers. Kansas City most notably stood out for its significant growth of tech companies. In 2009, Kansas City’s tech company population jumped by 5 percent to 2,900—a faster growth rate than established tech hubs such as Silicon Valley, Boston and Austin, the report said, citing a 2010 study by the TechAmerica Foundation

One of the most exciting initiatives to come out of Kansas City is the rollout of Google Fiber. In 2011, Google chose Kansas City over 1,100 others to set up its broadband Internet service; making Kansas City the first area where Google’s ultra-high speed service would be available.

“In selecting a city, our goal was to find a location where we could build efficiently, make an impact on the community and develop relationships with local government and community organizations,” said Milo Medin, Vice President, Access Services, in a Google blog. “We’ve found this in Kansas City. We’ll be working closely with local organizations including the Kauffman Foundation, KCnext and the University of Kansas Medical Center to help develop the gigabit applications of the future.

The new ultra high-speed fiber network, which will run 100 times faster than current broadband, will likely help bolster cloud-based technologies and pave the way for high-definition streaming services that will be hard to find elsewhere.

“Google Fiber is another lifestyle asset to draw talented engineers and developers to our region,” said Ryan Weber, President of KCnext, a non-profit industry advocacy group for technology in the region. “From an entrepreneurial standpoint, if you are a tech start-up you are going to have extremely high access for a very low cost and that will reduce your overhead significantly.”

Google Fiber will offer three options. These include a free broadband Internet option, a 1 Gbps Internet option for $70 a month and a version that includes television service for $120 per month. The Internet service includes 1 terabyte of Google Driver service.

According to Weber, Google Fiber is helping to bridge the digital divide that exists in America and in most communities.

“For families that have not been able to afford other options, it’s a real advantage to having an inexpensive connection so you can apply for jobs or take online courses,” said Weber. “That’s a huge asset for our region.”

Photo credit: Sportsaddicts.me

The Google Fiber project also has served as a catalyst to put attention on other exciting technology initiatives happening in the region. Besides IT, Kansas City also is cultivating its biotech industry.

Currently, there are 200 biotech companies located in the Kansas City area, employing more than 20,000. In recent years, Kansas City has developed specific areas of expertise within the broader industry, including animal health and pharmaceutical development and a growing research base. Biotech research spending has more than doubled in the region since the year 2000 and there are 12 new research facilities currently under construction. Public and private research spending now exceeds $1.8 billion.

In June 2012, the Kansas Bioscience Authority (KBA) launched BioResearch Central, a new collaborative network of more than 90 contract research organizations (CROs) and related service providers stretching from central Kansas through to central Missouri. This network represents one of the 15th largest concentrations of CROs in the U.S.

“We have about 90 CROs that employ about 9,000 people and derive over a billion in sales every year,” said Tom Krol, director of commercialization for the KBA. “We’re very hopeful that we can grow the biosciences here and the CROs are a part of that.”

A CRO is defined as a company that does contract work for a pharma, biotech or medical device company in human or animal health. A recent KBA-commissioned study by Tufts University found “tremendous breadth and depth of expertise” among the region’s CROs and related service providers, covering the range from discovery, formulation and toxicology to bioanalytics, clinical trials, regulatory services and commercial support.

In recent years, the 16 largest global pharmaceutical firms have all enlisted BioResearch Central companies for contract research services. In addition, BioResearch companies have contributed to the successful development of more than 60 pharma products.

The KBA has also launched the new Bioscience Park, a 100 acre park located in within the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, home to one-third of total sales in the $19 billion global animal health market. A key component of the park is the KBAs Venture Accelerator wet lab incubator, which facilitates the growth of early-stage, high-potential bioscience companies.

The year-old Venture Accelerator is now home to Agrilytics, Epic Medical Concepts and Innovations, Expedite Animal Health, Novita Therapeutics and its two spinoff companies, Flow Forward and Metactive.

“The Bioscience Park is a prime location for bioscience companies to locate,” said Mr. Krol. “We have an incubator for start-up companies with offices and wet labs. The idea is that once the companies grow they can move out into their own facility within the bioscience park or alternatively we have land that can be gifted to companies that would like to locate here.”

In May 2012, Ceva Biomune announced it is moving to the Venture Accelerator for the next year as the company completes extensive renovations to its R&D facility in Lenexa. Ceva will be the ninth company in the KBA facility, which is 80 percent leased.

Other recent additions to the accelerator include Pasture USA, which develops medical countermeasures to biological accidents or attacks, disease outbreaks and pandemics, and Wound Care 360, which develops products for wound closure and care.

Albuquerque: High-Tech Haven
The Albuquerque metro is continuously recognized as a high tech haven by national publications such as Wired and Small Times magazines thanks to its variety of companies and technology savvy workforce available to new and expanding companies.

Albuquerque officials and representatives from Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization cut ribbon on smart grid project.

With more than 310 days of sunshine a year and the highest elevation of any major city in the U.S., Albuquerque has built a thriving renewable energy cluster. A renewable energy study published by Ernst & Young in February 2012 ranked New Mexico No. 2 in renewable energy attractiveness, just behind California.

A rapidly developing cluster of solar technologies exist in the Albuquerque metro area including Unirac, Emcore, Array Technologies, Sacred Power and Fraunhofer CFV Solar Test Laboratory. In addition, the New Mexico Technology Corridor, stretching from Los Alamos National Laboratory northwest of Santa Fe to New Mexico State University just north of the Mexican border, contains an array of technology-based organizations involved in the research and development of alternative energy products.

In the past year, New Mexico’s solar companies received a substantial growth in utility- and commercial-scale projects. Unirac Inc, which makes mounting platforms for solar PV systems, projects an 80 percent jump in revenue in 2012.

Array Technologies, Inc., a maker of solar trackers, and Sacred Power Corp, which makes and installs fully assembled solar systems, also forecast double-digit expansion.

In July 2012, the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems, an applied R&D development laboratory dedicated to the commercialization of clean energy technologies, opened a PV outdoor test field in Albuquerque.
The field is an extension of the center’s Albuquerque solar research annex, which launched in 2011. The Fraunhofer Center also co-owns the CFV Solar Test Laboratory at Mesa del Sol in Albuquerque, which opened in 2011.

“This facility reinforces our commitment to conducting cutting-edge solar research for our clients, and gives our experienced technical team the flexibility to accommodate a broad range of solar power performance testing products,” said Dr. Christian Hoepfner, scientific director at Fraunhofer CSE, in a news release.

The federal government recently unveiled a long-term plan for solar energy development in six Southwestern states, including New Mexico. The plan, announced July 2012, designates 17 solar energy zones totaling about 285,000 acres of public lands as priority areas for utility-scale solar development.

New Mexico’s only solar energy zone under the proposal is the Afton zone, which totals about 30,000 acres in the Las Crucs/Dona Ana County area.

In addition to solar technology, New Mexico has launched a Green Grid Initiative to develop a rapidly growing Smart Grid. In May 2012, Mesa del Sol, Albuquerque’s mixed-use, master planned community, unveiled its new Smart Grid system, the first of its kind in the nation.

The newly installed micro-grid used on-site solar, fuel cell, natural gas and back-up battery storage to power the 78,000 square-foot Aperture Center at Mesa del Sol.

Partnering with Mesa del Sol on the Smart Grid is Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), PNM, Sandia National Laboratories, The University of New Mexico and nine Major Japanese companies including Shimizu Corporation. The system was unveiled today with VIPs and dignitaries on hand.

NEDO is investing $22 million in the smart grid. In addition to funding to construct the system, NEDO will monitor and test the system for the next two years. Once complete, the entire project will be turned over to the University of New Mexico’s Center for Emerging Energy Technologies for continued research and smart grid development.

“The new smart grid has a building management system that is automated and manages the electric supply and distribution between our on-site generation sources, energy storage and PNM’s power grid,” explained Manny Barerra, Mesa del Sol’s Director of Engineering in a statement.

With the global population to exceed 9 billion in 2050, of which 70 percent are estimated to live in an urban environment, the building of smart communities with reduced energy and water needs is essential for a sustainable society. Energy use is on the increase and the Smart Grid will help reduce reliance on fossil fuels and increase the use of more sustainable sources of energy such as renewables, while maximizing energy efficiency.

“The Smart Grid at the Aperture Center is another example of Mesa del Sol walking its talk,” said Mesa del Sol Vice President of Development Chris Anderson in a statement. ‘We have built this community to be sustainable at every level. It’s not an afterthought but a key facet of everything we do.”

Another Green Grid Initiative is the $1.5 billion Tres Amigas Superstation, which will link the nation’s three major electricity grids. In May 2012, the company picked Albuquerque as the location for its new headquarters, creating 75 to 100 high-paying jobs. The company is building a 15,000 to 20,000 square-foot “dual center” complex in Rio Rancho that will house a backup control room and training and simulation space, creating additional jobs.

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez signed into law this year a specialized tax credit intended to help lure Tres Amigas to New Mexico. “I am excited that Tres Amigas has chosen to invest and locate in New Mexico, and I believe the work that was done to make New Mexico more competitive during last year’s session helped to make this announcement possible,” Gov. Martinez said in a statement.

The superstation will include a hub near Clovis to serve as the meeting point for high-voltage power line interconnections that serve the eastern and western halves of the U.S. and a separate grid that supplies Texas. The project is intended to allow electricity to flow more freely across the grids and break down barriers to ramping up alternative energy in the U.S.

Northeast Ohio: Shaking Off the Rust
A new technology cluster is forming in the Northeast—and it’s not on the coast. Cleveland, long recognized as “America’s Medical Capital,” is developing a robust medical and biotech industry, while Pittsburgh is becoming known for its strengths in developing new and innovative technologies. Together, this new tech cluster is helping to drive regional growth, create jobs and have long-term, positive economic impacts on the region.

The Northeast Ohio technology scene, which consists of Cleveland, Akron, Canton, and Youngstown, is being bolstered by a large biomedical presence. In the past five years alone, the biomedical industry has grown 37 percent. From 2004 to 2010, 189 new bio-related firms began operating in the Cleveland area.

The Cleveland area is now home to more than 700 biomedical facilities, 60 hospitals, 230,000 health care and bioscience workers, outstanding manufacturing capabilities, and a strong network of more than 25 colleges and universities.

Health care is the largest industry sector in Cleveland, making up 18 percent of its economy. In the last ten years, over $1 billion has been invested in over 110 health care start-up companies, 34 health care start-up companies have been acquired, creating economic growth and additional startups and 67 national venture investors have funded Cleveland’s health care companies.

In 2013, the city will unveil its own health care “Pentagon” to the international medical industry. Construction is under way on the Cleveland Medical Mart & Convention Center, which, once completed, will be a state-of-the-art healthcare industry education and training center, attracting the nation’s leading medical societies and association meetings to a facility located within close proximity to the nation’s leading healthcare providers. The Medical Mart will provide the industry’s leading manufacturers with a platform for showcasing medical innovation and technology in the heart of the nation’s medical capital.

The complex will include a 235,000-square-foot, four-story medical mart and an adjacent convention center with 230,000 square feet of Class A exhibition hall space. The $465 million project broke ground in January 2011. Completion is scheduled for August 2013 and the project is currently aiming for LEED Silver certification.

Cleveland also is home to a three-mile, 1600-acre Health-Tech Corridor (HTC), a prime location for biomedical, healthcare and technology companies looking to take advantage of close proximity to four world-class healthcare institutions including the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals, eight business incubators, four academic centers and more than 123 high-tech companies engaged in the business of innovation.

In September 2012, IceCure Medical Ltd., an Israeli medical device company, announced the expansion of its U.S. operations from private clinics to breast cancer institutes at large hospitals, after completing its first year of marketing activity in the U.S.

IceCure opened its U.S. headquarters on June 1, 2011 in Cleveland’s Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center (GCIC). IceCure Medical is leasing space in GCIC’s 50,000 sq. ft. facility adjacent to the Cleveland Clinic, which provides close proximity to clinical researchers and clinicians along with extensive facility and business support services.

“The unique infrastructure for growing biomedical companies, the support we received from many organizations and the progressive health care environment that includes world-class institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals Case Medical Center, led us to choose Cleveland for our U.S. operations,” said Hezi Himelfarb, CEO of IceCure Medical.

In addition to locations in Detroit and Newport Beach, Calif., IceCure has installed its IceSense3 systems at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland and the St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown. The installations will give more women access to the company’s cryoablation procedure for the removal of breast cancer tumors. The system replaces the need for surgical excision of the tumors.

The Cleveland Medical Mart will serve as a health care industry training facility and a convention center.

“The Health Tech Corridor builds on one of our region’s economic strengths and is an international destination for medical technology companies,” said Mayor Frank G. Jackson. “Cleveland’s ability to attract companies like IceCure and help them develop their business is essential for the growth and success of the area.”

In addition to IceCure, Cleveland has attracted Israeli medical tech companies MDG Medical, NI Medical and Simbionix. The Ohio Capital Fund and Bridge Investment Fund LP, which provided the companies with innovative technology set up operations, played a key role in attracting foreign companies to the region.

The University of Akron has created the FirstEnergy Advanced Energy Research Center to develop technology to generate efficient electric power with minimal carbon dioxide emissions. Specifically, the center will research and create ways to capture carbon dioxide, which then would be used at fossil-fueled power plants, and to develop coal-based fuel cells for commercial use.

Because of its well-known expertise in several engineering and manufacturing disciplines, including mechanical, corrosion and polymer engineering, as well as research, development and technology commercialization, The University of Akron also has been selected to be a key collaborator in the pilot program of a major national effort to revitalize the U.S. manufacturing industry. An announcement introducing this pilot effort was made  at M-7 Technologies in Youngstown.

The TechBelt Regional Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (AMII) is part of President Obama’s new National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) program announced last March. The NNMI would be the catalyst for a network of up to 15 Institutes of Manufacturing Innovation around the country, each serving as a hub of manufacturing excellence that will help make U.S. manufacturing facilities and enterprises more competitive while encouraging investment in them as well. Additive manufacturing was deemed as the technical focus of the pilot institute.

Additive manufacturing, the science of manufacturing three-dimensional, functional objects, is a rapidly growing technology being used to create usable parts for industries such as aerospace, energy, medical and consumer products. A revolutionary suite of manufacturing technologies for building up parts, and potentially entire systems, AM creates these systems in a layer-by-layer fashion, placing material precisely as directed by a 3D digital file. It also is being touted for its cost savings and waste reduction.

Each Institute of Manufacturing Innovation (IMI) will be competitively selected. The proposal by UA and its partners in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia for the pilot institute stood out among a host of other industrial and academic partnership proposals.

UA’s strengths in various engineering disciplines—particularly the “multi-layering” of polymer films and multiple electronic printing technologies available in its National Polymer Innovation Center (NPIC), corrosion engineering and finishing the surfaces of materials—make it uniquely positioned to play a major role in the AMII.

UA’s part of the winning proposal was a collaborative effort between the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering and the College of Engineering. Proposal and technical team members included Cakmak; Bryan Vogt, Ph.D., associate professor of polymer engineering; Jae-Won Choi, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering; David Simmons, Ph.D., assistant professor of polymer engineering; and Ajay Mahajan, Ph.D., associate dean for research in the College of Engineering.

Tucson is the Sun King
One of the fastest-growing regions in the Southwest, Tucson’s technology assets includes a renowned bioscience global hub and an internationally-recognized location for solar energy activities.

Tucson has been identified as one of thirteen Solar America Cities by the U.S. Department of Energy, and several large scale initiatives are underway, including a new project to build a 14.5-megawatt photovoltaic (PV) solar array, the Air Force’s largest in terms of generating capacity, at Davis-Monthan (D-M) Air Force Base. D-M  already is home to the largest residential PV installations in the nation, 6 megawatts worth of solar at D-M’s Soaring Heights Communities base housing complex.

Construction on the D-M project, initially announced in September 2010, will begin soon with completion planned for no later than December 2012, the Air Force said. The base has entered into an agreement with California-based solar developer SunEdison LLC to design, finance, build, operate and maintain the array on 170 acres of underutilized base property.

The $38.4 million power purchase agreement provides electricity to D-M at a reduced rate for a period of 25 years, saving the base from $400,000 to $500,000 a year in utility costs, the Air Force said. The project will provide 35 percent of the energy needed to power the base.

 

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