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Making Green By “Going Green”

In August, the EPA announced it would purchase all of its energy from renewable sources. This purchase would total nearly 300 million kWh per year, enough energy to power 27,970 homes for one year.

In August, the EPA announced the entire agency would be purchasing all of its energy from renewable sources. This purchase would total nearly 300 million kWh per year, enough energy to power 27,970 homes for one year.

As foreign oil sources and rising energy prices continue to be a daily topic of discussion, green power is now en vogue, which could spell new opportunities for manufacturers.

More Than Just Hot Air
In September of 2004, the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) released a study on wind turbine development and its opportunities for manufacturers. According to their findings, a major portion of the development of wind power would result in the manufacturing of the equipment to harness this low-cost renewable energy source. Currently 10,000 megawatts of wind power is generated out of the air annually, eliminating 16 millions tons of carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas associated with global warming.

The study found that the 20 states hardest hit by manufacturing job losses in the last few years would have the most to gain. An investment in wind could account for 76 percent of the manufacturing jobs previously lost in those states. Most recently, wind-power product manufacturing companies have opened facilities in Iowa, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. Jobs are also created further down the supply chain, where there isn’t a large wind resource, such as Louisiana.

Condon, Oregon wind farm
photo courtesy of Dennis Schwartz, Copyright, 2006

According to research by REPP, a proposed Renewable Portfolio Standard in Pennsylvania found that 1000 megawatts of wind power developed could potentially create 3,000 jobs in manufacturing, 700 in installation and 600 in operations and maintenance. Pennsylvania currently produces 129 megawatts of wind power and has the potential to produce 15 percent of the state’s entire electricity consumption.

A Sunny Outlook for Solar Power
As in wind power, the same holds true for solar power. Manufacturing accounts for the majority of the cost of photovoltaics (PV). Since the manufacturing process could occur in places other than the installation location, economic benefits and job creation could be brought to areas around the country.

Another study completed by the REPP on solar PV development and economic activity reported that employment directly related to developing solar energy could increase by 42,000 jobs. Eighty percent of these jobs will be in manufacturing and the remaining 20 percent would be in construction and installation of the solar-based systems.

Save Our Sound?
Not everyone, though, is in favor of the development of alternative fuels in all applications. Save Our Sound, a non-profit organization in Massachusetts, has been a loud voice against the development of a wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod in Nantucket Sound.

Audra Parker, Director of Strategic Planning at Save Our Sound, said that the majority of local residents are opposed to the project.

“In a recent poll, 88 percent are in favor of wind power, but 58 percent are not in favor of the Cape Wind project,” Parker said. “Nantucket Sound is not an appropriate location.”

According to Parker, there are multiple reasons for the project to not move forward - economic, environmental and public safety. “This is more than a ‘not in my backyard’ type of issue,” Parker said. She cites concerns from the local chambers of commerce that are disturbed over a potentially negative tourism impact as one example; however, there are additional concerns, such as ferry safety hazards, potential ecological ramifications and local economic impact.

The issue is made additionally complex due to the geographical breakdown. According to Parker, state sanctuary property extends out three miles from the shoreline; however, the water in the middle of Nantucket Sound is federally-owned, which is where the proposed wind farm would be located. This requires input on both the state and federal level.

“It’s a complex and controversial issue,” Parker said. “This project is not in the public’s best interest.”

Mark Rodgers, Communications Director at Cape Wind, has a bit of a different point of view.

“It’s important to take a step back when examining this project,” Rodgers said. “We always knew we would be under a lot of scrutiny.”

Rodgers is quick to point out that Save Our Sound was not in existence prior to the Cape Wind project announcement and that the organization has spent millions in communication, legal fees and lobbying. According to Rodgers, the benefits, such as jobs, electrical diversity and air quality, outweigh the potential negative aesthetic impact. On a clear day, the wind farm will be visible from the shoreline.

Map of the Cape Wind project site in Nantucket Sound, Mass Audubon survey routes, and surrounding areas.
To view map larger, click here.
Source: Conservation Perspectives; Map- Giancarlo Sadoti, Mass Audubon
“Energy is a very important issue and every project has tradeoffs,” Rodgers said. “This project will provide needed power and reduce electrical costs and improve air quality in New England.”

The entire project will take up a 24 square mile area of Nantucket Sound known as Horseshoe Shoal. Rodgers explained that the wind farm will consist of 130 turbines. Each turbine will be 247 feet tall from the water’s surface and each blade will span from 75 feet above sea level to 417 feet above sea level at its highest point. There will be approximately six to nine football fields of space in between each turbine. The water depth in that area is fairly shallow, ranging from 2 feet deep to 45 feet deep. If the project moves forward, the turbines will be manufactured by GE Energy.

“We’re confident that the record will show that the project is in the public’s best interest,” Rodgers said.

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