Saturday, August 9, 2008

Wind, solar energizing Pennsylvania's economy

Pennsylvania is still sitting on sizable deposits of coal--perhaps more than 300 years worth, according to some estimates. And coal is still the primary fuel source for most of the state's power-generation.

But two new alternative energy players --wind and solar--are off to impressive starts. Why? In large part due to the financial and regulatory encouragement received from state leaders who recognize the new industries' potential--not only to generate electricity without coal's pollution--but also to create new manufacturing and service-sector jobs.

A few days ago, we tipped our hat to the state's new wind-energy industry in A cleaner puff of Pennsylvania is on the way. Today, Philadelphia Inquirer writer Sandy Bauer, in a story detailing the industry's emergence, declares that wind has become "the dominant renewable-energy fuel in Pennsylvania."

Pennsylvania already has nine commercial wind farms with a total of 175 turbines and a capacity of 294 megawatts - enough to power 78,000 households, Bauer reports in Wind power gains momentum.

"Five more wind farms under construction will double that by year's end. About 70 more projects are in development."

Perhaps as important as energy production is the industry's potential benefit to the state's economy. Gamesa Technology Corp. Inc., part of a Spanish company that's one of the world's largest turbine makers, already has 600 workers working round-the-clock, six days a week, at its $34M plant on the former U.S. Steel site in Bucks County (and a second in western PA).
Orders for the parts they're making are sold out through 2010.


The state's other alternative energy industry--solar--made headlines this week with announcement of plans for the largest solar energy farm east of Nevada. Funded through private investment (and some state support) it would be located in the Carbon County community of Nesquehoning, an area suffering the ravages of decades of coal mining.

For coverage, see: Inquirer Standard Speaker Morning Call

Dubbed “Pennsylvania Solar Park,” it would be the largest solar energy plant in Pennsylvania and one of the largest in the U.S., generating enough electricity to power 1,450 homes and eliminate more than 320,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions within 30 years of operation.

Both solar and wind developers have benefited from a requirement that 18 percent of the state's energy come from alternative and renewable sources by 2020.

Electric utilities are already looking to enter into contracts with alternative energy providers in order to meet that deadline.
Hmmm. Big hungry customers looking for your service. Not a bad way for a fledgling industry to get started.

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