Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Clean and Green Jobs Solution

North Carolina Sees New Jobs,

Rapid Growth in Renewable Energy 


By Stirling Little 
 Progressive America Rising via The Daily Tar Heel 
Renewable energy has emerged as a growing industry in the state, according to a recent report by the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association.
The report identified more than 1,800 renewable energy projects in the state this year.
About 1,100 firms were involved with renewable energy activities in 2010, according to the association.
Erik Lensch, president of Argand Energy Solutions, a solar energy company based in Charlotte, said his company has been a part of the industry’s recent expansion.
“We have doubled (in size) every year since 2008,” he said. “We just kicked off a $3 million project this week, our largest ever.”
Paul Copleman, communications manager at Iberdrola Renewables, an energy company whose American subsidiary is based in Portland, Ore., said his company is in the process of receiving state approval for construction of a wind farm project called Desert Wind.
Copleman said the 300-megawatt Desert Wind project would represent an investment of at least $600 million, making it the largest utility-scale wind power project in the state’s history.
Legislators and industry leaders have attributed growth to a 2007 law that established renewable energy standards.
The law requires electric power suppliers in the state to generate a prescribed amount of electricity from renewable sources.
Rep. Mike Hager, R-Cleveland, said the state has played an active role in the growth of renewable energy.
“Federal funds were not the major driving force behind most of these projects,” he said. “The growth almost all happened after 2007, when we passed (the renewable energy law).
Though the state’s unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 9.7 percent, industry leaders say they are boosting the state’s economy by promoting job creation.
The association estimated that the renewable energy industry employed about 12,500 workers in the state in 2010.
“I’ve got 20 guys on a roof north of Durham this morning,” Lensch said. “These kind of guys come straight out of Appalachian (State University). These jobs would have gone out of state without solar projects in North Carolina.”
But Hager said the higher cost of clean energy is a concern for the state’s consumers.
“Renewables are a great asset, but what we have to make sure of is to keep energy prices down and to keep our energy income reliable.”
Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, said in an email that the state must pursue all potential energy sources to keep costs low for state residents.
“I am definitely an advocate for becoming energy independent in the United States and I think North Carolina can play a big part in obtaining that goal,” she said.
Copleman said only economically viable projects receive approval from N.C.’s regulators.
“The wind has to blow long and hard if it’s going to happen,” he said.
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