Alternative Energy Powers the New Economy

Locations across the country have made renewable energy central to their economic recovery strategies. The race is on to claim a leadership position in solar, wind, geothermal and biofuel generation and manufacturing.

Despite the economic downturn, the three benchmark energy technologies—solar, biofuels and wind—grew in global revenue by 11 percent in 2009, totaling $139.1 billion, and they are projected to grow to $325.9 billion within a decade. They are part of a renewable energy industry that has come to be more than just a sign of hope—it is now the driving force for economic recovery.

According to a report issued in March by Clean Edge Inc., a research and publishing firm for the clean-tech sector, biofuels and wind power each saw increased revenue last year, though solar experienced its first decrease due to a decline in solar PV pricing. While total venture activity was down in the U.S. in 2009, clean energy ventures increased to 12.5 percent of total venture activity. The firm’s research shows that wind power, with global installations reaching 37,500 megawatts last year, 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, reached $44.9 billion in 2009 and 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, according to Clean Edge projections. Wind energy is of particular note, as it is the fastest growing energy source in the world.

The installation of nearly 10,000 megawatts of new generating capacity last year, enough to serve more than 2.4 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. But according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the U.S. is barely tapping this 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.

Here is an in-depth look at some of the locations that are staking a claim to alternative energy leadership.

Arizona Enters The Solar Zone

Southern Arizona—with its abundance of sunlight, availability of land, talented workforce, connection to University assets and regional commitment to solar and other renewable energy—has the potential to become a global leader in the future of clean energy technologies. The University of Arizona Science and Technology Park (UA Tech Park) is developing a comprehensive solar business zone within the park to capture the economic upside of the growing solar industry. This initiative is called SolarZone@TheUATechPark.

“SolarZone@TheUATechPark is a revolutionary, solar-centric business zone poised to significantly advance solar energy innovation and production. The Solar Zone thrusts Southern Arizona into the center of solar investment,” says John Grabo, Director of Business Development at the UA Tech Park.

The SolarZone is a sweeping integration of power generation, solar research and development, manufacturing, green job training, education and public awareness dedicated to the creation of a competitive environment for companies in the sector to roll out current and create next generation new energy products, attract key suppliers and talent in order to promote industry success and advancement.

The SolarZone@TheUATechPark offers the ideal setting and several attributes not available elsewhere. These strategic advantages include:

• Location—200 acres will cluster multiple solar generation technologies, combined with next generation product   development.

• Synergy—Centralizing key suppliers in SolarZone the region will provide a full ecosystem of resources proximate to   solar operations.

• Speed to Marketplace—The SolarZone’s streamlined development processes combined with an understanding of the   competitive challenges and demands helps drive solar companies to operation much faster than any other location   option.

• Talent—The next generation of solar energy professionals is being developed in collaboration with industry   requirements at the University of Arizona and Pima County Community College.

• Innovative Capacity—The SolarZone is linked to the University of Arizona, is ranked among the top 20 of public   research universities nationwide, and its solar efforts such as the Arizona Research Institute for Solar Energy (AzRISE)   and programs in the Optical Sciences, Engineering, Atmospheric Sciences and Physical Sciences. These innovative   resources will be at the leading edge of product development, testing and commercialization.

• Entrepreneurship—Leveraging the Arizona Center for Innovation, the potential to grow Arizona’s newest renewable   energy firms is enhanced by co-locating emerging and mature firms at the SolarZone. New firms add to the pipeline of   new capacity for the sector.

• Global Connectivity—The SolarZone takes advantage of unique economic relationships with partner regions and   institutions in Ottawa, Canada and Berlin, Germany who are co-advancing a Clean-Tech initiative to develop this   industry sector across international borders. This tri-partite network of cities will leverage educational, industrial and   innovation linkages to increase commerce between regions in solar and other related sectors.

The SolarZone, a 200-acre site that can support nearly 20MW of solar generation, will contribute significant value to the region economically and environmentally. Five key components of SolarZone@TheUA Tech Park include:

• Generation/Storage—Suitable for multiple generation technologies that will serve local energy demand through Tucson   Electric Power.

• Manufacturing/Assembly— Designed for manufacturers of solar power panels, solar cells, module assembly, systems   integration and assembly, concentrators, frames, etc.

• Research & Development—The SolarZone is aligned with one of the priority research areas of the University of   Arizona. Companies can leverage the UA’s Arizona Research Institute for Solar Energy (AzRISE) and other key   colleges and departments like Engineering, Optics, Science (chemistry and atmospheric science for instance), and   Biosphere II for investigation and development of next generation solar technology.

• Workforce Development—The clustering of solar firms can lead to the development of green job training programs for   the solar industry (technicians, installers, etc.). With curriculum input from industry, the region can ensure readily   available talent for green jobs within the community.

• Public Awareness/Education Center—The demonstration center will showcase how solar energy works, how it can be   used, and how it helps our environment. The center will also increase public interest and awareness of solar energy.   Students will be able to work hands on with industry to learn real world application and problem solving for renewable   energy companies.

The Solar Zone’s first-of-its-kind integration attracted Bell Independent Power Corporation (BIPC) of Rochester, NY, which announced in January 2010 that it would be the anchor tenant of the Solar Zone with its state-of-the-art 5-MW Concentrated Solar Power plant with a Thermal Storage System—the first in the world. BIPC’s proprietary Thermal Storage System will enable the concentrated solar power plant to generate electricity on cloudy days and after sunset, reducing cost and overcoming the major limitation of solar power. Bell’s projected cost for the forty-five acre plant is estimated at $32 million.

According to the Job and Economic Development Impact (JEDI) Model provided by the National Renewable Energy Lab, a 5-megawatt CSP Trough solar power project will produce:

• 148 jobs and $24 million in total economic impact during construction phase
• 16 jobs (direct and indirect) and $2 million per year ($50 million over 25 years) in total economic impact during the   operation phase

Not to be overlooked is the positive environmental impact is expected on the region. A 5-megawatt solar power plant will produce approximately 219 million kilowatt hours of electricity over 25 years, the equivalent to avoiding the emission of 15,728 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide or CO2 equivalent. Also, SolarZone@TheUATechPark is in active discussions with Tucson Electric Power and four new solar development prospects that could bring new solar generation projects to the Solar Zone demonstrating multiple solar technologies operating at utility scale production. When combined with the BIPC project, the SolarZone would see a substantial cluster of companies locating within its boundaries (overall economic impact estimated at $100-million capital investment).

Blue Skies, Bright Future

While Tucson is known for its abundant sunshine and top-ranked research university, the region is also becoming well recognized for its abundant human capital, state of the art solar research and technology development, ample supply chain opportunities and competitive operating costs. This translates into opportunity—from sunrise to sunset—for any company wanting to take advantage of the region’s unique assets.

Recognized globally as an emerging location of choice for solar energy activities, Tucson’s solar industry promises a bright future. The Tucson region continues to attract solar system component manufacturing companies, supporting a wide range of solar industry needs, from research and development to the manufacturing of mounting systems and solar modules. This industry presence brings together potential partners to share labor force skills, technology transfer, industry knowledge and additional business activities.

What companies have leveraged Tucson’s emerging solar presence? In addition to Bell Independent Power Corp.’s decision to locate in the new SolarZone@TheUATechPark, other world-class corporations and emerging industry players include SOLON Corp., Schletter, Inc., Global Solar and Prism Solar. These companies are taking advantage of the region’s proximity to vendors, suppliers and major consumer markets throughout the Southwest and Western United States.

“California is one of the world’s largest solar markets, and Tucson’s proximity to California is a major advantage for solar companies in the region. Tucson’s strategic location provides area businesses clear access to markets, clients, suppliers and technology partners while operating in a cost-competitive business location,” says Joe Snell, president/CEO of Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, Inc. (TREO), the region’s economic development agency.

Tucson has a lower cost of living compared to other major metropolitan areas and is considered one of the most affordable places to live in the West. In addition, Arizona’s worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance costs are among the lowest in the United States, and Arizona’s tax structure is competitive and business-friendly. With lower corporate taxes and lower payroll costs, businesses operating in the Tucson region gain a competitive advantage.

Arizona’s new program provides $350 million in incentives to renewable-energy firms expanding or locating in Arizona. The program went into effect January 2010.

Available incentives include the Commercial/Industrial Solar Energy Tax Credit. The Solar Energy Tax Credit is designed to encourage businesses to install solar energy devices at Arizona facilities; the tax credit is equal to 10% of the installed cost of the solar energy device not to exceed $25,000 in credits for one building in a single tax year and $50,000 total credits per business per tax year.

Tax credits can be used to offset Arizona income tax liability; any unused credit amounts can be carried forward for a five-year period.  In the 2010 legislative session, the Arizona legislature extended this incentive for an additional six years, to 2016.

San Antonio is 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.

Last year, with approval from the San Antonio City Council to change fuel adjustment charges, the utility allocated $859 million through 2020 to the Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan (STEP). STEP aims to reduce energy use by 771 megawatts by 2020 through customer rebates and incentives, including $156 million to weatherize up to 45,000 homes in Greater San Antonio.

Odessa, TX: Energy Epicenter

The last decade has proven to be one of growth and economic diversification for the city of Odessa, Texas. Still the largest single source of oil and gas deposits in the United States, Odessa has experienced a thriving oil economy. In addition, new businesses have come to the city that have helped diversify the economy as well as reinforce the quality of life standards to which Odessans have become accustomed.

Odessa proudly boasts of high quality cultural and recreational facilities as well as healthcare and transportation often associated with larger cities.

In recent years, Odessa has emerged as an energy epicenter. In addition to the oil and gas that the region is so well known for, electrical power generation has become a mainstay in Odessa.

In fact, the ODC is one step closer to brining a new project from Summit Power to Odessa. This private endeavor, with the help of the legislature, will be the first venture of its kind in the U.S. Very much like the FutureGen project that Odessa made the short list for in 2007, Summit is looking to design, build and operate an energy facility that produces electricity and hydrogen from coal, with near zero emissions.

This type of project will greatly reduce mercury and sulfur emissions, as well as water usage, and will capture a high percentage of their carbon dioxide, resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions. The captured carbon dioxide will be used for climate-monitored enhanced oil recovery and other geological carbon sequestration. The Permian Basin is a prime location for the carbon dioxide capture, since we are the pioneers of that process.

Summit Power Group, Inc. excels in the innovative development of large electricity generation projects.

Summit has established a remarkable track record of successfully leading the development of large electricity generation projects with nearly 4500 megawatts (MW) of electric power plants already in operations.

Odessa is also home to the PSEG Texas Plant and the Quail Run Energy Center. West Texas also boasts the largest wind farm in the world. In all cases, Odessa, Texas has risen to the top of the list for energy in the state of Texas and across the U. S.

Fortunately, Odessa is big enough to have a superior transportation system, yet it is small enough to get around in quickly. The multi-lanes of Interstate 20, State Highway 385 and John Ben Sheppard Parkway provide quick access to industrial, commercial and residential areas in central and east Odessa. Also within 10 minutes of Odessa’s city limits, you will find Texas’ 9th largest international airport, vital to the Permian Basin’s growing trade opportunities.

Grenada: A Growth Opportunity in Biomass

Located only an hour away from Memphis, TN and Jackson, MS on I-55, Grenada, Mississippi is at the center of one of the largest banks of soft and hard woods in the state of Mississippi. The combination of this and other key characteristics have attracted major players in the wood industry over the years. Today, Grenada is emerging as one of the South’s most attractive locations for biomass-based clean energy facilities. Companies like Abitibi Bowater, Georgia Pacific and Hankins Lumber Company offer great opportunities for synergies with biomass operations in need of supply and/ or processing of raw materials, and the rare presence of two electric providers in the county allows for dual feed and transfer opportunities.

Wade Taylor, General Manager for Abitibi Bowater’s paper mill in Grenada, explains, “Grenada has been a great partner to our company. Local economic development officials have always been on top of any issues affecting our business and are quick to respond to any of our needs. I am not surprised that Grenada’s location and accessibility to both, markets and suppliers, are generating a buzz among biomass-based electric generation facilities.”

Grenada has been a burgeoning commerce and manufacturing center since the early 1970’s, when manufacturers first discovered the cost-saving advantages of Grenada’s location and its quality of life assets. Home to the largest recreational lake in the state and one of Mississippi’s best public golf courses, Grenada continues to grow its manufacturing base today. Currently, more than 32% of the labor force in the region works in the manufacturing sector, more than double the national average. Over the years, Grenada’s labor force has demonstrated that it can adapt and re-train to meet the sudden changes of the manufacturing sector. Home to one of north Mississippi’s best school districts and the fastest growing branch of Holmes Community College, Grenada’s workforce is ready to take on any challenge. In the year 2000, in response to the changing needs of Grenada’s manufacturing base, the community college invested over 2M dollars in an industrial training center that continues to provide a steady flow of qualified workers to the area.

Among Grenada’s other assets are its three industrial parks, which together account for more than 1,300 acres of community-controlled property. Pablo Diaz, Executive Director of the Grenada County Economic Development District, adds, “Our community is ready and able to support clean energy companies. We are offering industrial property with direct access to rail service, interstate traffic, and more importantly, a vast supply of biomass resources from wood-related companies in the area. The availability of both raw materials and excess wood processing capacity can create huge savings in procurement and logistics for a biomass operation in Grenada.”

Coming to Tampa: REW 2011

Leading companies and speakers from across the range of North America’s renewable energy industry will gather in the Tampa, FL convention center from March 8-10, 2011 for Renewable Energy World Conference & Expo North America. This will be the show’s eighth year and its first visit to the Southeast United States. All technologies will be represented—solar, wind, hydro, biomass and geothermal—along with finance and public policy experts.

The timing couldn’t be better as a new session of Congress gets underway with energy and renewables on its mind. Conference organizers will make sure there’s plenty of discussion about innovate and repeatable finance strategies.

The conference’s Utility Integration track expands in 2011 to include more discussion about Smart Grid and its promising applications to renewable energy. And, for the second year, Photovoltaics World Conference & Expo will be co-located at the show with a special pavilion on the exhibit floor and its own conference track.

Details on exhibition space are available at the REW Conference & Expo North America web site,