NEWTON, Iowa — President Barack Obama, standing Wednesday in the shell of a once-giant Maytag appliance factory that now houses a wind energy company, declared that a “new era of energy exploration in America” would be a crucial to leading the nation out of an economic crisis.

With pieces of wind turbine towers as a backdrop, Obama touted the small manufacturing firm as a success and as a step toward reducing the United States’ reliance on polluting fuels. But as the president on Earth Day set a goal for wind to generate as much as 20 percent of the U.S. electricity demand by 2030, legislation to make that a reality faced a challenge back in Washington in the Democratic-led Congress.

“The nation that leads the world in creating new energy sources will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy,” Obama said in a state that launched him on the road to the White House with a surprise upset over one-time rival Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“America can be that nation. America must be that nation. And while we seek new forms of fuel to power our homes and cars and businesses, we will rely on the same ingenuity _ the same American spirit _ that has always been a part of our American story.”

It’s an American spirit, though, that has been damped with economic downturn and financial crisis.

The president left Washington for a few hours Wednesday to visit this small Iowa town, which took a huge economic hit when Maytag Corp. shut its doors in 2007. The Maytag plant employed some 4,000 in a town of 16,000 residents in jobs that paid about $30,000 to $40,000 a year.

In its place is Trinity Structural Towers, a 90-person manufacturing firm that makes parts of wind turbines the president hopes to expand on land and at sea through the government’s first plan to harness ocean currents to produce energy.

O”Now, the choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy,” Obama said. “The choice we face is between prosperity and decline. We can remain the world’s leading importer of oil, or we can become the world’s leading exporter of clean energy.”

In Washington, the president’s plan to increase alternative energy sources and create environmentally friendly jobs hit some snags despite Obama’s fellow Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reinforced Obama’s message in testimony to a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday.

The administration’s draft bill is designed to help stem the pollution blamed for climate change by capping greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gases by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and by 83 percent by mid-century.

The White House wants to see movement on the legislation by Memorial Day. To help that along, aides said the president plans to personally make his case that the costs of dealing with climate change can be reduced dramatically by adopting programs that will spur energy efficiency and wider use of non-fossil energy such as wind, solar and biofuels.

In Newton, Obama proclaimed that “once-shuttered factories are whirring back to life,” although the facility he toured is a shadow of what it replaced here about 30 miles east of Des Moines.

“Today this facility is alive again with new industry,” Obama said, while noting that “this community continues to struggle and not everyone has been so fortunate as to be rehired.”

Trinity now employs about 90 people _ hardly the replacement Newton so desperately needs.

“We’ll never have another Maytag,” said Paul Bell, a Newton police officer who also serves in the state legislature. “Maybe we shouldn’t have had a company here that the majority of people worked for. We put all of our eggs in one basket.”

Recognizing the challenges remaining in Newton and scores of towns like it coast-to-coast, Obama quickly added: “Obviously things aren’t exactly the same as they were with Maytag.”

With the same root in realism, Obama acknowledged the United States’ energy policy will not change instantly, given the country’s reliance on oil and natural gas.

“But the bulk of our efforts must focus on unleashing a new, clean-energy economy that will begin to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, will cut our carbon pollution by about 80 percent by 2050 and create millions of new jobs right here in America, right here in Newton,” he said.

But it won’t come quickly. The United States imports almost 4.9 billion barrels of oil and refined products annually. That is raw energy that cannot be replaced, one windmill at a time.

Instead, Obama urged bold thinking _ and spending _ to address climate change and energy supplies.

“So on this Earth Day, it is time for us to lay a new foundation for economic growth by beginning a new era of energy exploration in America,” he said to applause.

Obama also pushed personal responsibility, calling on every American to replace one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent. The president also said the leaders of the world’s major economies will meet next week to discuss the energy crisis.

In Landover, Md., on Monday, Vice President Joe Biden marked Earth Day by announcing that $300 million in federal stimulus money will go to cities and towns to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles.

___

Associated Press writer Brian Westley in Landover, Md., contributed to this report.

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Daniel C. Esty

Posted April 20, 2009 | 03:50 PM (EST)  As reported in Huffington Post Green

Talk has begun to turn to the new economy that will emerge from the present collapse. General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt has suggested that the current crisis is not just a recession but a fundamental “reset” of how business gets done. And Time magazine has taken up this theme with a reset cover story. But there has been little discussion of exactly what changes – in principles and practices — should be made so that we rebuild our economy on firmer foundations. As we celebrate Earth Day this week, it is a good time to commit to “sustainability” as a centerpiece of a revitalized regulatory system.

For the past three decades, debate has raged over whether and how to deregulate. But while markets offer the prospect of promoting innovation, growth, and prosperity, few now believe that capitalism is self-correcting or that the private sector needs only minimal supervision. From the demise of Lehman Brothers and AIG to the skullduggery of Bernie Madoff and Allan Stanford, the signs of inadequate regulation and market failure surround us.

Two particular forms of market failure underlie the meltdown of the past year and make sustainability the right touchstone for our regulatory reset efforts:

• Externalized costs and risks
• Incomplete information

Both of these problems require that we rethink our approach to regulation — and re-establish the fundamentals of our economy on a more sustainable basis. And note that this principle should apply broadly, not just in the financial arena.

We need regulations which ensure that companies cannot structure their operations so that any upside gains accrue to their owners (or worse yet their managers), while risks or costs get shifted onto society as a whole. In the banking sector, rules against over-leveraging are urgently required. The recently released Turner Report in the UK outlines the first steps in this direction that should be taken. More generally, financial reporting rules must be designed to expose hidden risks and externalized costs.

We should likewise insist that companies which send emissions up a smokestack or out an effluent pipe cease their pollution or pay for the harm inflicted on the community. In our “reset” world, economic success cannot come at the price of harms imposed on the public in the form of contaminated air and water or risk of climate change. Thus while we lay the foundation for a more sustainable economy, let’s similarly adopt rules that provide for a sustainable environmental future. This will require overhauling the traditional approach to environmental regulation which countenances way too much in the way of externalities by offering “permits” up to a certain level of harm.

President Obama’s call for a price on carbon dioxide emissions represents a good first step in the “no externalities” direction. But let’s broaden the push and make polluters pay for all the harm they cause. If companies — and each one of us in our personal lives — had to pay for our waste and pollution, behavior would change. Putting a price on harm-causing creates incentives for care and conservation — efficiency and resource productivity.

More importantly, these price signals will drive a market response. Companies that are positioned to help others reduce their waste or cut their emissions will find customers eager for their goods and services. And where no easy solutions are available, harm charges will motivate “cleantech” innovation as inventors and entrepreneurs recognize the prospect of making money by solving environmental problems.

In parallel with a commitment to internalizing externalities, we must adopt transparency as a watchword. Market capitalism does not work without adequate information about economic actors. This reality has been understood in theory, but now needs to be advanced in practice. Government has a critical role to play in establishing the terms of disclosure about companies, markets, products, investment vehicles, and more. Public officials must also be empowered to ensure that disclosures are complete and accurate.

Well-designed reporting rules make it easier to spot externalized costs or risks and harder to hide malfeasance. Widely available metrics also facilitate benchmarking across companies, which offers a mechanism for assessing performance, highlighting leaders and laggards, and spurring competitive pressures that drive all toward better results. Studying the leaders offers an important way to identify best practices in everything from corporate strategy to pollution control. Likewise, outliers (such as those who make 10% returns year after year without fail) can be isolated for special review and scrutiny.

Such transparency would make it easier to refine our compensation systems to reward superior performance and real value creation. Carefully constructed disclosure rules could help, on the other hand, to unmask mere financial engineering, which should not be credited with outsized rewards.

There is a great deal of work to be done to re-establish prosperity across our country and the world. Smart regulation can channel corporate behavior and individual effort toward sustainable economic growth — that is durable because it rests on solid underpinnings not hidden risks or externalized costs.

Daniel C. Esty is the Hillhouse Professor at Yale University with appointments in both the Yale Law School and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He is the co-author (with Andrew Winston) of the prize-winning book, Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage (just released in a revised and updated edition published by John Wiley). A former Deputy Assistant Administrator at the US Environmental Protection Agency, Professor Esty advised the Obama Campaign on energy and environmental issues and served on the Obama Transition Team.

by Brian T. Murray/The Star-Ledger

Sunday April 05, 2009, 7:12 AM

The relicensing last week of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station, the nation’s oldest nuclear power plant, guarantees that nuclear energy is here to stay in New Jersey, for at least a few more decades, even as state officials continue to push alternative sources of energy.

The Garden State draws about 53 percent of its electricity from four nuclear plants — a reliance on nuclear energy far above the national average of about 20 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Along with Oyster Creek in Lacey Township, which was cleared by federal regulators for a new license on Thursday to operate another 20 years, the state’s electricity flows from the Hope Creek and the twin Salem Creek reactors in Salem County.

 

“Right now, one of every two households in New Jersey gets its electricity from nuclear energy. If you take nuclear energy off line, where will the energy come from?” said David Benson, a spokesman for Oyster Creek.

Gov. Jon Corzine has vowed to have 30 percent of the state’s electricity produced through wind and solar power by 2020 — an initiative that even his supporters call ambitious.

Renewable sources, including solar, wind and landfill gases, currently provide only 3 percent of New Jersey’s electrical energy. Coal-burning plants generate 20 percent, natural gas generates 21 percent and petroleum plants generate 16 percent.

Even critics acknowledge that New Jersey’s nukes are not about to be replaced.

“We know it will take at least 20 years, maybe longer, for us to generate enough power to replace them. We would like it to be quicker, but we know they are not going away anytime soon. … Our issue is, we need to find cleaner, safer, more reliable sources,” said Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Sierra and the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group allege Oyster Creek is unsafe because of corrosion found in the late 1980s in the drywell liner or shell that encases the reactor. Federal regulators contend the problem has been repaired and the plant is safe.

Regardless, NJPIRG contends renewable power is safer — and that all four nuclear plants could be replaced by 2,139 windmills.

“That being said, efficiency improves every year in wind turbine technology, unlike nuclear generation, and over the next decade will increase dramatically, making it highly unlikely that we would need anywhere near that number,” said Jacob Koetsier of NJPIRG.

“In 2005, Congress passed a subsidy bill that included $5.7 billion in operating subsidies for the nuclear industry and $2 billion to insure companies for costs in delays in getting licenses for six new reactors. If that kind of money had been switched to renewable energy back then, we’d already be up and running,” he added.

DIFFERENCE OF OPINION

But windmills require miles of space, and plans to begin erecting about 300 of them off the Jersey Shore have divided even environmental groups, with some organizations fearing a negative impact on marine life. The potential costs pose a greater obstacle.

“The Department of Energy’s own numbers estimate the cost of offshore wind will be more than twice that of coal, twice that of advanced nuclear, with or without government subsidies. There is reason you don’t have a lot of wind power — it is more expensive,” said Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, a Washington, D.C. research group that supports free-market models for energy production.

The statistics were cited as projected consumer costs in the Department of Energy’s Annual Energy Outlook for 2009. While market prices on energy may fluctuate, Kish said windmill power also faces the added financial complexities of bringing the new electrical power into the nation’s existing power grid — the national system by which power is delivered to households and businesses.

The problem is being realized in Texas, which is leading the nation in developing renewable energy sources, but must expand its grid to deliver it.

“To anybody who believes New Jersey is going to be 30 percent on solar panels and wind power by 2020, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. It’s just not going to happen,” Kish said.

Additionally, the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine. That raises concerns about what is known in the energy industry as “baseload” — the ability to constantly generate electrical energy, as do nuclear and coal plants.

“But that is more of an issue for land-based wind-turbines,” Tittel countered. “The further offshore you go, which New Jersey plans to do, the steadier the wind. The efficiency increases 60 percent offshore, as opposed to 30 percent on land.”

While building windmills may have obstacles, so does a future reliance on nuclear energy, experts say.

The nation’s 104 existing plants are operating at about 90 percent, and no new ones are being built largely because federal officials have not determined where to bury the radioactive waste and there is a 30-year-old federal prohibition against reusing it.

There also is the growing price-tag on building new reactors — $7.5 million for a 1,000 megawatt facility such as the ones in Hope Creek and Salem Creek, according to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission figures released last year.

Written by Seth Borenstein  AP

WASHINGTON — A new scientific study finds that the absolute worst of global warming can still be avoided if the entire world cuts emission of greenhouse gases the way President Barack Obama and Europe want.

A computer simulation by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., looked at what would happen by the end of the century if greenhouse gas levels were cut by 70 percent. The result: The world would still be a warmer world but by about 2 degrees instead of 4 degrees. Arctic sea ice would shrink but not disappear, and sea level would rise less.

About half the temperature increases and changes in droughts and floods can be avoided compared to a scenario without emission cuts, according to the study, which will be published next week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Future heat waves would be 55 percent less intense. Thawing of permafrost in the far north would also be reduced.

The study is one of the first to use computer models to quantify how much of the effects global warming can be avoided, compared to a world if nothing is done about the problem.

While the study looked at what would happen with dramatic cuts in future pollution, history has shown that reductions are much easier to talk about than to make. The controversial 1997 Kyoto Protocol called for industrialized countries to cut emissions but since then levels worldwide have gone up 25 percent. In the U.S., where emissions are up 6 percent in the last decade, Congress is fiercely arguing over a plan to reduce pollution.

“If we follow on the path that Obama has outlined of cutting emissions by 70 or 80 percent and the rest of the world does it, then we can make a big difference on the climate by the end of the century,” climate scientist and study chief author Warren Washington told The Associated Press.

But if the United States and Europe cut back on carbon dioxide and China, India and other developing countries do not, then the world is heading toward a harsher hotter future, not the one the study shows, Washington said.

The study mapped areas that would benefit the most by emission cuts, comparing what would happen with less carbon dioxide pollution and what would happen if greenhouse gas continue to grow. The difference between the two scenarios is starkest for temperatures in Alaska and the mountain west, which would see temperatures rise a couple degrees less with emission cuts. Reduced carbon dioxide would also significantly lessen predicted future droughts on the Pacific coast and flooding in the Northeast.

Much of Europe, Russia, China and Australia would see the biggest temperature benefits from reductions in greenhouse gas pollution, while the Mediterranean, Caribbean and North Africa region would benefit the most in predicted changes in rainfall from less global warming.

If the world cuts back on fossil fuels, “it isn’t going to be as bad,” Washington said.

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania’s long-stalled solar-rebate program for homeowners and small businesses will soon have funding – an infusion of cash that could result in the creation of scores of “green” jobs.

The Commonwealth Financing Authority board voted unanimously yesterday to borrow $30 million to get the Pennsylvania Sunshine Program under way.

Enacted in July as part of Gov. Rendell’s $650 million Alternative Energy Funding Act, Sunshine is expected to provide rebates of 35 percent to help cover the cost of buying solar-power systems.

“Time is of the essence,” said George Cornelius, chairman of the seven-member authority board and the state’s acting secretary of community and economic development.

The DEPartment of Environmental Protection, which will administer the Sunshine Program, expects rebate applications to be available within two weeks.

“We think this is the front edge of a huge development of renewable energy in Pennsylvania,” said Dan Griffiths, deputy secretary at the DEP.

Those are inspiring words to Jeremy Klotz, 44, of South Philadelphia, who traveled to the state capital yesterday along with 30 other solar contractors to urge the authority to approve funding for Sunshine.

Klotz was laid off three weeks ago from a solar company that had hired him months ago in anticipation of Sunshine funds that never came.

Solar-contracting companies throughout the state had hundreds of thousands of dollars in installation jobs and planned hires on hold because homeowners and small businesses were reluctant to commit to solar projects without assurance that state help to offset the cost was, indeed, on the way. An average 5-kilowatt residential system costs $35,000 to $40,000.

“If this [funding] had passed, I might be working right now,” Klotz told the authority board prior to yesterday’s vote.

A quick polling of his colleagues in the audience revealed at least 350 installation projects on hold because of uncertainty over when – if ever – Sunshine funds would become available, Ron Celentano, a principal with Celentano Energy Services in Wyndmoor, told the authority board.

 

‘Dire need’

“We are in dire need of this money,” said Celentano, who is also vice president of the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association.

Rising from the back row, a soft-spoken Wes Checkeye, a 24-year-old part-time solar installer at Heat Shed Inc. near Quakertown, told the board he was “looking forward to a solar future – if that’s possible.”

In all, the legislature allotted $100 million for Sunshine. The Commonwealth Financing Authority, an independent agency established to administer Pennsylvania’s stimulus packages, anticipates issuing a number of bonds over the next few years to fund the Sunshine program entirely, as well as other alternative-energy programs the state intends to launch.

The authority intends to go to market to finance Sunshine’s first funding infusion the first week of May, said executive director Scott Dunkelberger.

 

‘All those green jobs’

That was a good-enough assurance for Kira Costanza of Collegeville-based Sunpower Builders, which has about 40 contracts with potential customers sitting in a drawer and about a half-dozen planned hires that have been in limbo.

“We’re thrilled,” Costanza said of yesterday’s funding vote. “This is going to create all of those green jobs everybody’s been talking about.”

Within a month, that will mean the rehiring of an administrative assistant, an electrician, and a plumber at Open Sky Energy Systems in Swarthmore, said Michael Matotek, chief operating officer.

The company was formed a month or two after the legislature approved the Sunshine program. With rebates still unavailable by January, Matotek said, “we had to let everybody go.”

After the vote, he told Klotz he’d like him to consider working at Open Sky.

Said an elated Klotz: “I’m going to go celebrate my daughter’s 13th birthday.”

Our perspective:

The long awaited door has been opened. Governor Rendell approved this measure in July 2008, from there it had to be defined.

This is a small but necessary steps. The bill is designed for residential and small businesses. It will not prove to be the be all…end all.

PA has to take significant steps if it wishes to jump start a program needed to address the growing demand for energy. We are faced with a dilemna. Demand is growing   1 1/2% a year. We are unable to meet this growing demand in the next 8 to 10 years with our existing facilities.

I do not believe that people will accept rolling brown outs as a possible solution to meeting this growing demand. Incentives are needed to open the gates to larger facilities / businesses. Providing a ROI that will not only make sense but also allow us to meet this demand.

Let us know your thoughts?

Should you be interested in knowing more of how to set up the proper financial structure needed to take advantage of Federal and State Incentives…email george@hbsadvantage.com 

Last DSIRE Review: 02/19/2009  

Incentive Type: Federal Grant Program
Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Solar Thermal Electric, Solar Thermal Process Heat, Photovoltaics, Landfill Gas, Wind, Biomass, Hydroelectric, Geothermal Electric, Fuel Cells, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Municipal Solid Waste, CHP/Cogeneration, Solar Hybrid Lighting, Hydrokinetic, Tidal Energy, Wave Energy, Ocean Thermal, Microturbines
Applicable Sectors: Commercial, Industrial, Agricultural
Amount: 30% of property that is part of a qualified facility, qualified fuel cell property, solar property, or qualified small wind property
10% of all other property
Max. Limit: $1,500 per 0.5 kW for qualified fuel cell property
$200 per kW for qualified microturbine property
50 MW for CHP property, with limitations for large systems
Terms: Grant applications must be submitted by 10/1/2011. Payment of grant will be made within 60 days of the grant application date or the date property is placed in service, whichever is later.
Website: http://www.treas.gov/recovery/
Authority 1: H.R. 1: Div. B, Sec. 1104 & 1603 (The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009)
Date Enacted: 2/17/2009
Effective Date: 1/1/2009

 


Summary:

  Note: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1) allows taxpayers eligible for the federal business energy investment tax credit (ITC) to take this credit or to receive a grant from the U.S. Treasury Department instead of taking the business ITC for new installations. The new law also allows taxpayers eligible for the renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) to receive a grant from the U.S. Treasury Department instead of taking the PTC for new installations. (It does not allow taxpayers eligible for the residential renewable energy tax credit to receive a grant instead of taking this credit.) Taxpayers may not use more than one of these incentives. If an entity receives a grant and has previously received the business ITC or the PTC, the credit will be recaptured through an increase in taxes during the year in which the grant is awarded by the amount of the credit taken in previous years. Receiving a credit in the past does not reduce the amount of the grant. The grant is not included in the gross income of the taxpayer.  
 
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1), enacted in February 2009, created a renewable energy grant program that will be administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury. This cash grant may be taken in lieu of the federal business energy investment tax credit (ITC).  
 
Grants are available to eligible property* placed in service in 2009 or 2010, or placed in service by the specified credit termination date,** if construction began in 2009 or 2010:

  • Solar. The grant is equal to 30% of the basis of the property for solar energy. Eligible solar-energy property includes equipment that uses solar energy to generate electricity, to heat or cool (or provide hot water for use in) a structure, or to provide solar process heat. Passive solar systems and solar pool-heating systems are not eligible. Hybrid solar-lighting systems, which use solar energy to illuminate the inside of a structure using fiber-optic distributed sunlight, are eligible.  
     
  • Fuel Cells. The grant is equal to 30% of the basis of the property for fuel cells. The grant for fuel cells is capped at $1,500 per 0.5 kilowatt (kW) in capacity. Eligible property includes fuel cells with a minimum capacity of 0.5 kW that have an electricity-only generation efficiency of 30% or higher.  
     
  • Small Wind Turbines. The grant is equal to 30% of the basis of the property for small wind turbines. Eligible small wind property includes wind turbines up to 100 kW in capacity.  
     
  • Qualified Facilities. The grant is equal to 30% of the basis of the property for qualified facilities. Qualified facilities include wind energy facilities, closed-loop biomass facilities, open-loop biomass facilities, geothermal energy facilities, landfill gas facilities, trash facilities, qualified hydropower facilities, and marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy facilities.  
     
  • Geothermal Heat Pumps. The grant is equal to 10% of the basis of the property for geothermal heat pumps.  
     
  • Microturbines. The grant is equal to 10% of the basis of the property for microturbines. The grant for microturbines is capped at $200 per kW of capacity. Eligible property includes microturbines up to two megawatts (MW) in capacity that have an electricity-only generation efficiency of 26% or higher.  
     
  • Combined Heat and Power (CHP). The grant is equal to 10% of the basis of the property for CHP. Eligible CHP property generally includes systems up to 50 MW in capacity that exceed 60% energy efficiency, subject to certain limitations and reductions for large systems. The efficiency requirement does not apply to CHP systems that use biomass for at least 90% of the system’s energy source, but the grant may be reduced for less-efficient systems.

It is important to note that only tax-paying entities are eligible for this grant. Federal, state and local government bodies, non-profits, qualified energy tax credit bond lenders, and cooperative electric companies are not eligible to receive this grant. Partners or pass-thru entities for the organizations described above are also not eligible to receive this grant. Grant applications must be submitted by October 1, 2011. The U.S. Treasury Department will make payment of the grant within 60 days of the grant application date or the date the property is placed in service, whichever is later.  
 
The U.S. Department of Treasury has not yet released guidelines and is not accepting applications currently for this grant. It is expected that guidelines will be released in late Spring 2009.  
 
 
*Definitions of eligible property types and renewable technologies can be found in the U.S. Code, Title 26, § 45 and § 48.  
 
**Credit termination date of January 1, 2013 for wind; January 1, 2014 for closed-loop biomass, open-loop biomass, landfill gas, trash, qualified hydropower, marine and hydrokinetic; January 1, 2017 for fuel cells, small wind, solar, geothermal, microturbines, CHP and geothermal heat pumps.

Austin, Texas, is getting closer to its self-imposed goal of using more renewable energy, and creating jobs in the bargain. The Texas-sized solar plant being planned would be the largest in the Unite States, according to Austin Energy.

The Council approved an agreement under which the City’s municipally-owned electric utility, Austin Energy, will purchase all of the electricity produced over a 25-year term by a 30 megawatt (MW) solar project to be built on city-owned property located about 20 miles from downtown Austin.
Gemini Solar Development Company, LLC, one of 15 companies competing for the massive project, will construct, own and manage the solar facility. The project of photovoltaic solar panels will span approximately 320 acres, producing energy each year sufficient to power about 5,000 homes. Austin Energy will pay about $10 million per year for the power.

The solar project represents a major step towards fulfilling a Council goal to develop 100 MW of solar capacity for Austin by 2020. The Council also has set a goal that 30 percent of the power delivered to customers by Austin Energy by 2020 will come from renewable resources. Construction on the project is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2010 and completed by the end of that year. The project will result in at least 600 local construction jobs.

 

The Austin American-Statesman said that critics remain — they’re worried about the financial
aspects of the plan, like how much the power will cost.

By unanimous vote, the council approved a partnership with Gemini Solar Development Co. to build and operate the facility and sell all its power to Austin at $10 million a year for 25 years. City officials say it would help them get closer to the city’s goal of using more renewable energy.
Other questions remain that critics said they would raise at the meeting. The city won’t say how much the power from the plant would cost, although most estimates are around 16.5 cents a kilowatt hour — more than most other types of power. Even that calculation is foggy, though, because federal tax credits could reduce the construction cost, thus making the electricity cheaper. But the city isn’t sure how much cheaper. The credits weren’t factored into Gemini Solar Development’s pitch.

 

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 10, 2009; Page A12

 

President Obama yesterday announced plans to buy 17,600 American-made, fuel-efficient cars and hybrids for the government fleet, the White House’s latest gambit to steer aid to the nation’s beleaguered automakers.

This Story

The move came in a week when the administration accelerated efforts to revive an industry suffering it lowest sales in decades. Earlier this week Obama dispatched a team of 15 finance experts to Detroit to work with General Motors and Chrysler on restructuring efforts. On Wednesday, the Treasury Department began to release $5 billion in aid to parts suppliers. And yesterday Ed Montgomery, the president’s new adviser on auto communities and workers, visited Ohio to discuss what assistance might be needed there.

By June 1, the government plans to spend $285 million in stimulus funds to buy fuel-efficient vehicles from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. The purchase is slated to include 2,500 hybrid sedans, the largest one-time purchase of hybrid vehicles to date for the federal fleet.

“This is only a first step, but I will continue to ensure that we are working to support the American auto industry during this difficult period of restructuring,” Obama said in a statement.

Each vehicle must have a better fuel economy rating than the one it replaces. The government aims to boost the new fleet’s overall fuel efficiency at least 10 percent.

The new cars are intended to reduce the government’s gasoline consumption by 1.3 million gallons a year and prevent 26 million pounds of carbon-dioxide from entering the atmosphere, the administration said.

The General Services Administration, which is buying the cars, will also pledge $15 billion to test advanced technology vehicles, such as compressed natural gas buses and all-electric vehicles, in the federal fleet. These orders will be placed by Sept. 30.

“We look forward to showing him the many GM vehicles we have that will fit this purpose,” GM spokesman Kerry Christopher said. Industry-wide, car companies expect to sell less than 10 million cars and trucks this year, the lowest level in more than two decades. Consumers are avoiding showrooms, and major rental car companies have cut back on fleet purchases as businesses and vacationers cut back on travel.

In the first quarter, 271 U.S. auto dealers went out of business, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. The association estimates that about 1,200 dealers — primarily sellers of domestic brands — will close their doors this year.

Although Obama’s purchases will give U.S. automakers some needed sales, it won’t bring the industry back up to the boom years when Americans bought around 16 million vehicles annually.

“On the big scale, no, that’s not going to change anyone’s bottom line,” said George Augustaitis, an analyst for CSM Worldwide.

But it is symbolic.

“This is a welcome and important step that reflects the president’s commitment to the survival and revitalization of the domestic auto industry,” Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.) said in a statement.

The administration has already loaned GM and Chrysler a combined $17.4 billion, and has offered more if the companies can cut debt and reduce labor costs. It continues to work to increase the flow of credit to potential car buyers and dealers. The president has also pledged to work with Congress to pass a “cash-for-clunkers” bill, which would offer cash incentives to people who trade in their older, fuel-inefficient cars for cleaner models.

During his campaign, Obama spoke of his desire to convert the White House fleet to battery-powered vehicles within the year, as security permitted, and by 2012 he said he wanted half of the cars the federal government buys to be plug-in hybrids or electric.

Meanwhile, Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson met with Montgomery yesterday and emphasized his desire that local businesses that benefit from government help reinvest in the Cleveland economy. “Those dollars turn around the economy multiple times and help support small- and medium-size businesses that are on the brink,” he said.

Montgomery promised he would bring that message to Washington.

“He understands, he understands,” Jackson said.

TRUST IN THE WIND

April 8, 2009

ATLANTIC CITY – Windmills off the East Coast could generate enough electricity to replace most, if not all, the coal-fired power plants in the United States, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said yesterday.

His view was challenged as “overly optimistic” by a coal-industry group, which noted that half the nation’s electricity currently comes from coal-fired power plants.

The secretary spoke at a public hearing in Atlantic City on how the nation’s offshore areas can be tapped to meet its energy needs.

“The idea that wind energy has the potential to replace most of our coal-burning power today is a very real possibility,” he said. “It is not technology that is pie-in-the sky; it is here-and-now.”

A spokesman for Salazar said yesterday evening that the secretary does not expect wind power to be fully developed, but was speaking of its total potential if it were.

Offshore energy production might not be limited to wind power, Salazar said. A moratorium on offshore oil drilling has expired, and President Obama and Congress must decide whether to allow drilling off the East Coast.

“We know there are some people who want us to close the door on that,” he said. “We need to look at all forms of energy as we move forward into a new energy frontier.”

Salazar said ocean winds along the East Coast can generate one million megawatts of power, roughly equal to 3,000 medium-sized coal-fired plants, or nearly five times the number of coal plants now operating in the United States, according to the Energy Department.

Salazar could not estimate how many windmills might be needed to generate one million megawatts, saying it would depend on their size and how far from the coast they were located.

Jason Hayes, a spokesman for the American Coal Council, said he was puzzled by Salazar’s projections. He said wind-power plants face roadblocks including local opposition, concerns about the impact on wildlife, and problems in efficiently transmitting power from far offshore.

“It really is a stretch,” he said of Salazar’s estimate. “How you put that many new [wind] plants up, especially in deep water, is confusing. Even if you could do what he said, you still need to deal with the fact that the best wind plants generate power about 30 percent of the time. There’s got to be something to back that up.”

Yesterday’s hearing was hosted by Salazar and was the first of four nationwide to discuss how energy resources including oil, gas, wind and waves should be used as the Obama administration formulates its energy policy. It was held at the Atlantic City Convention Center, whose roof-mounted solar-energy panels are the largest in the nation.

Salazar said it is essential that the nation fully exploit renewable energy resources to reduce its reliance on imported oil.

By buying oil from countries hostile to the United States, “we have, in my opinion, been funding both sides in the war on terrorism,” he said.

Environmentalists are urging the Obama administration to bar oil and gas drilling off the East Coast, and invest heavily in wind, solar and other energy technology.

Our Perspective:

I have found there is no silver bullet. There are multiple forms of alternative energy solutions, each playing a unique part in the overall solution.

To install wind mills out in the ocean and rid ourselves of the mining of coal would amount to a homerun! Safety is always a concern. Not only the safety of our workers mining the coal but also the safety of the environment. All the pollutants discharged into the air from its’ use.

Let us know your thoughts? You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

Have a question about financing your investment in alternative energy? Contact us. We specialize in creating the financial structure that make sense. 

As reported in NJ Biz Written by Shankar P

Vineland and Ocean City are implementing ambitious programs to attract investments in renewable energy, particularly solar power, and their city administrations are leading by example. Investors from across the world are showing interest in their projects, according to municipal officials in both cities.

New Jersey has the second-biggest solar energy program in the country, according to Mark Sinclair, executive director of the Montpelier, Vt.-based Clean Energy States Alliance, an organization of 20 states with renewable energy programs.

Vineland is the state’s only city with its own electricity-generating plant, but the 100-megawatt facility uses coal and oil as fuels, and needs replacement, said James Lelli, the city’s director of economic development. The city plans to replace the plant with one operating on solar power, and also build a 60-megawatt natural gas generator, financed by a $60 million bond issue, by 2012.

Five companies have shown interest in building a solar panel farm to supply the city’s needs, including one from China, Lelli said. The city is negotiating with some of the interested parties, and expects to make an announcement soon. Power generated at the plant would be sold to the regional grid, he said.

One of the proposals is to build a 50-megawatt solar panel farm at a cost of some $150 million, Lelli said. About 300 acres would be needed to generate that much power; the city already has earmarked 100 acres for the farm and a 100,000-square-foot plant building, he said. All that land would cost the prospective investor $4.5 million at the prevailing market rate of $45,000 an acre, he added.

Vineland has kept the site shovel ready, with utility infrastructure and an industrial zoning status, Lelli said. He expects to have a deal by the year’s end, and the solar farm up and running nine months afterward.

Vineland also last week signed a deal with utility company Conectiv to build a 4-megawatt solar farm in the city, Lelli said.

Ocean City, another old hand at implementing green projects, is also exploring a plan to band together business owners who might want to install solar panels on their premises. Together, they would be able to justify the investment in solar panels that might otherwise not be feasible, said Jim Rutala, Ocean City’s business administrator.

Rutala said over the past month, the city has been in talks with several businesses about solar energy plans, and that Nicholas Asselta, commissioner of the state Board of Public Utilities, is helping in the process.

Ocean City, in fact, has one of the state’s largest municipal solar energy projects, Rutala said. In February, it completed an ambitious project to install 1,800 panels on five city-owned buildings, providing 550,000 kilowatt-hours. It plans to extend panel installation to another half-dozen buildings, he added.

The city chose Entech Solar Inc., of Fort Worth, Texas, through a competitive bidding process to install the required infrastructure, he added. The solar project deal allowed Ocean City to lower its energy costs as Entech earns a return on its investment, Rutala said; the city sells leftover power to the regional grid.

The deal also allows the city to purchase its power at a concessional price of 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, said Jim Bryan, commercial and municipal markets manager at Entech in its Ewing offices. That price could go down to as low as 2.5 cents after factoring in the value of tradable renewable energy certificates the city gets, he said. The prevailing price of such electricity would be between 12 and 18 cents a kilowatt-hour, he said.

Entech makes its money in the turnkey construction of the solar energy project, and was helped by a $1.5 million BPU rebate, Bryan said. But New Jersey now is moving away from rebates, to a more market-based mechanism to power such projects.

Our Perspective:

This is a big step. We have clients in Vineland and I have read the story about this proposed conversion.

This makes perfect sense. Solar is a true Clean Energy Alternative that can help support Vineland’s Municipal Utility sustainability.

Should you like to know more about the proper financial structure needed for these initiatives, you may call 856-857-1230 or email george@hbsadvantage.com.

We will show you how to properly structure the deal and take advantage of all the Federal and State initives that will lower your ROI.

HBS….Tomorrow’s Clean Energy…Today!