Sustainable Development

Illinois To Invest $1M to Establish Route 66 Electric Vehicle Corridor

Governor Pat Quinn announced a $1 million investment for establishing a network of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations along Route 66 through Illinois.

Route 66, Illinois

Route 66, Illinois (photo – IvoShandor/wikipedia)

The State, local governments and private sector entities including automobile companies have teamed up to create a partnership called the Illinois Route 66 Electric Corridor.

This partnership will install a network of high-power EV charging stations connecting communities along the 300-mile section of Route 66 in Illinois that stretches from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River in the Metro East area.

Once the seven EV changing stations have been installed at cities along the route by summer 2015, the network will make it possible for electric vehicle owners to drive between Chicago and St. Louis, both key urban markets for electric vehicles.

Installation of the EV charging stations has already begun, with the cities of Carlinville, Dwight, Edwardsville, Lincoln, Normal, Plainfield, Pontiac and Springfield as part of the network.

Apart from these cities and the state support, the project is also backed by auto manufacturers including Nissan, BMW and Mitsubishi.

Technical assistance for project planning was provided by the University of California – Davis. UC Davis is one of the world’s leading universities for research and development on sustainable transportation.

In a release announcing the state’s investment in the project, Gov. Quinn said that this project exemplifies Illinois’ place as the Midwest’s innovation capital with cutting-edge business practices that create jobs and encourage sustainability.

Dan Irvin, general manager of Corporate Communications, Mitsubishi Motors North America, said that the State’s Route 66 EV corridor is consistent with MMNA’s desire to affect a broader acceptance of EVs through user-friendly infrastructure.

Irvin added that it is their belief that projects like this will help Illinois maximize the possibilities of electric vehicles.

Gustavo Collantes, assistant director for Energy, Environment and the Economy at the UC Davis Policy Institute, said that Illinois has one of the better combinations of price and carbon-emissions per kwh of electricity. Collantes said that this infrastructure has the clear potential to save drivers money while delivering environmental benefits to Illinois and the nation.

Adam Pollet, director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) which handles Illinois economic development efforts and programs, said that residents and visitors alike will soon be able to enjoy the sites, attractions and mystique of the state’s Historic Route 66 with easy access to charging stations for their electric vehicles.

ACEEE Scorecard – Top 10 Most Energy Efficient States

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has released its annual state energy efficiency Scorecard. The rankings and report show that governors and lawmakers across the map are taking major steps to increase their states’ energy efficiency.

ACEEE Scorecard - Most energy efficient states

ACEEE Scorecard – Most energy efficient states (photo – aceee.org)

The top 10 most energy efficient states, as per the ACEEE Scorecard, are – Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, Oregon, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, Washington, Maryland and Minnesota.

Massachusetts once again topped this list for the fourth year in a row, with California maintaining its second place ranking. Rhode Island, Oregon and Vermont were all tied for the third place ranking.

Maggie Molina, ACEEE Utilities, State and Local Policy Program Director, said in a statement that Massachusetts has proven that it is possible to save more energy each year while creating jobs, boosting the economy and ensuring a cleaner environment for years to come.

Massachusetts Clean Energy Center CEO Alicia Barton noted that energy efficiency benefits go far beyond greenhouse gas reductions and lower energy costs – it has become a true economic driver in Massachusetts.

Barton added that because of energy efficiency investments made by Massachusetts, there are now more than 4,000 companies with over 65,000 workers who are inventing, delivering and exporting energy efficiency technologies to national and global markets.

The ACEEE also released some other key findings along with the Scorecard. The total budget for electricity efficiency programs nationwide in 2013 added up to $6.3 billion. Factoring in the $1.4 billion budgets for natural gas programs, the total efficiency program budgets were pegged at $7.7 billion.

California leads the way for building energy codes and compliance. New York and California are leading states for energy-efficient transportation policies. Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Vermont were named as leading states for utility-sector energy efficiency programs.

Rhode Island was named as one of the states with the most aggressive savings targets. Every dollar invested by Rhode Island in energy efficiency is generating $2 in benefits for the state’s residents, businesses and commercial operations. Rhode Island’s energy efficiency savings from 2005-2014 are expected to be able to meet 12 percent of the state’s total electricity demand by the end of this year.

The ACEEE named Arkansas as one of the most-improved states for 2014, along with Wisconsin, Kentucky and the District of Columbia.

Arkansas was singled out for making huge progress in tripling electricity savings. The state’s budget for electric efficiency programs has increased by 30 percent from 2012 to 2013.

JD Lowery, director of the Arkansas Energy Office, a division of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said in a statement that through innovative programs, both businesses and households in Arkansas have discovered the economic benefits of investing in energy efficiency.

“We’re creating jobs while saving Arkansans money. Everybody wins,” added Lowery.

See the full state-by-state energy efficiency rankings in the ACEEE Scorecard.

Energy Efficient Insulation Producer Expanding Alabama Manufacturing Facility

Knauf Insulation, which recycles glass bottles into insulation used in construction to make buildings more energy-efficient, is expanding a manufacturing facility in Lanett, AL.

Knauf Insulation plant in Lanett, AL

Knauf Insulation plant in Lanett, AL (photo – Knauf Insulation/madeinalabama.com)

The Shelbyville, IN-based insulation producer selected the Lanett plant for this expansion after considering several other production facilities in its network.

Knauf insulation is an international company and a part of the Knauf family of companies, with 40 manufacturing facilities around the world and $2 billion in annual sales.

Knauf’s Lanett plant recycles 300 million glass bottles annually (835,000 bottles per day), recycling the glass into strands to be used as energy efficient insulation.

The company’s advanced technology and equipment allow it to turn a single glass bottle into a 3,000-mile long glass strand. Use of this insulation saves, in the first year alone, twelve times the energy per pound that it takes to produce the insulation.

Knauf will now invest more than $30 million in the 800,000-square-foot Lanett plant to double production and upgrade equipment, making it one of the largest insulation factories in the U.S.

The company plans to create 100 new jobs, adding to the 120 existing employees already working at the facility.

Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield said in a release that the Alabama team welcomes Knauf Insulation’s decision to expand its state-of-the-art operation in Chambers County and add 100 jobs to its workforce there.

Lanett being able to secure the $30 million investment and 100 new jobs is a direct result of earlier efforts by the Alabama economic development team and state and local officials to get the mothballed plant restarted, followed by efforts to position the plant as ripe for an expansion.

Chambers County has had a tough time since 2007-08, when a series of plant closings led to a 20 percent unemployment rate and forced the textile manufacturing community to look into diversifying its economy. The Knauf plant in Lanett, which had been operational since 1988, was shut down in June 2011 following the residential market collapse.

As the economy and real estate market improved, Knauf decided it would need more manufacturing capacity and evaluated several locations for the $20 million project. They finally chose the Lanett plant for reopening, citing the known quality of the workforce in Chambers County and the availability of workforce training programs, in addition to support from state and local officials.

The official reopening of the plant was held in January 2014. Aaron Wine, general manager of the Lanett plant, said that between the people in the state and the government of Alabama, it has been a great experience for Knauf Insulation to start up the Lanett plant. Wine added that it made the decision to expand a lot easier.

Monolith Solar Expansion Brings Jobs and Solar Farm to Vista Tech Park in Bethlehem, NY

Monolith Solar announced plans for an expansion of its operations in New York, including a new headquarters with manufacturing and research and development facility in the Vista Technology Campus in Bethlehem, NY.

Monolith Solar headquarters in  Vista Tech Campus, Bethlehem, NY

Monolith Solar headquarters in Vista Tech Campus, Bethlehem, NY (rendering image – ESD)

The company will invest $4.9 million into the expansion and headquarters relocation project, which is expected to create 76 new jobs and help retain their 49 existing jobs.

The investment will be used for constructing a built-to-suit 16,000-square-foot building in the tech park that will serve as the company’s headquarters and back office operations. Another connected 10,000-square-foot facility will house Monolith’s manufacturing and research and development operations.

Monolith also plans to install a solar farm next to their new facility. The 10-acre solar farm with 6,700 solar panels will produce around two megawatts of clean renewable power – enough electricity to fulfill the needs of the majority of companies located in the tech park.

Apart from the solar farm, the new Monolith headquarters building’s design also incorporates solar panels that will generate another 400 kilowatts of power.

Monolith Solar Co-Founder and CEO Mark Fobare said in a release that Monolith Solar was born in New York, has thrived in New York, and they’re expanding in New York.

Fobare noted that their business has grown from an operation based in a garage to a multi-regional leader in the high-tech sector, and the new built-to-suit headquarters will allow them to continue growing.

The Monolith CEO said that this wouldn’t have been possible without Gov. Cuomo’s commitment to economic development and growing renewable energy in New York, and added that State initiatives have made keeping their business and dozens of high-tech jobs in New York an easy decision.

Gov. Cuomo said Upstate New York is a prime location for high-tech companies like Monolith that want to grow and thrive, and with this expansion project the region continues to move forward as a hub for clean energy technologies.

The Monolith expansion project is being supported through a package of local and New York economic development incentives.

Empire State Development, New York’s lead economic development agency, has offered Monolith a $400,000 grant and another $400,000 in performance-based tax credits under the Excelsior Jobs program. Monolith is also seeking local incentives from the Town of Bethlehem IDA.

ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Kenneth Adams said that the Capital Region is a well-known hub for the high-tech industry and Monolith will add to this growth.

Plan to Solarize Rhode Island Kicks Off in North Smithfield

North Smithfield, RI is now officially the first community in Rhode Island to launch a new residential and commercial solar energy program called Solarize RI.

Solarize RI launch in North Smithfield, Rhode Island

Solarize RI launch in North Smithfield, Rhode Island (photo – solarizeri.com)

The Solarize RI campaign was created as a partnership effort involving the official Rhode Island economic development organization Commerce RI, non-profit firm SmartPower, and the RI Office of Energy Resources.

The Solarize model is designed to reduce the cost of solar installations and make it a financial imperative for homes and businesses.

The program relies on four key aspects to reduce solar installation costs – a competitive bidding process to select the installer; a tiered pricing system which reduces the cost as more people go solar; community-based outreach and marketing; and a specified end date for the program to encourage participation.

Solarize North Smithfield has already completed the first part to select RGS Energy, Inc. as its official Solarize installer. The marketing and outreach campaign for Solarize is being handled by SmartPower, a national non-profit marketing organization which works to promote clean renewable energy and energy efficiency.

To show its support for the program, the North Smithfield Town Council has already approved a 20-year municipal tax exemption for residential and rooftop commercial PV (photovoltaic) systems.

The Solarize North Smithfield campaign kicked off at the headquarters of National Marker Company. NMC is installing a rooftop solar generation system with the help of a Renewable Energy Fund grant from Commerce RI.

Commerce RI Executive Director Marcel A. Valois said in a release that through the Solarize partnership, they will be able to work with municipalities for offering solar installations at lower costs, while helping expand the renewable energy sector as a growing source of jobs and economic activity in Rhode Island.

Valois added that with greater adoption of solar energy, they hope to leverage the Solarize program to continue providing Renewable Energy Fund resources for supporting more projects around the state.

National Marker President Michael Black said they are happy to be part of the launch of Solarize RI, and excited that North Smithfield is the first town to participate. Black added that as a business owner and resident, the program allows them to shrink their energy footprint and create a cleaner environment for future generations.

RI OER Commissioner Dr. Marion Gold said the Solarize program is a proven model for reducing the costs of solar, and will help homes and businesses protect themselves against rising electricity rates while protecting the environment.

MidAmerican Energy Expands $1.9B Iowa Wind Project With Another $280M Investment

The biggest Iowa economic development project in history just got a little bit bigger. MidAmerican Energy Company announced an additional investment of $280 million to their previously announced $1.9 billion wind project.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds announce MidAmerican Energy wind project expansion

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds announce MidAmerican Energy wind project expansion (photo – iowa.gov)

The two new projects, including a new wind farm in Adams County and expansion of a second site in O’Brien County, will add another 67 wind turbines and 162 megawatts of wind generation capacity in Iowa.

These new projects will further reduce energy costs passed through to customers by around $93 million over ten years.

MidAmerican Energy Company President and CEO Bill Fehrman was joined for the announcement by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Fehrman is quoted in a statement issued by the company as saying that the new project reflects their commitment to the development of renewable energy.

Apart from the energy rate reduction benefits for consumers and reduction in the company’s own carbon footprint, the $280 million investment in the two wind projects will also produce other economic development benefits. This includes more than $40 million in expected property tax revenues over 30 years, plus annual landowner payments.

Also, the turbine blades for the 67 additional turbines required will be manufactured at the Siemens facility in Fort Madison, IA. The same Siemens facility has already received the original order for supplying blades for 448 wind turbines for MidAmerican Energy. Another Siemens facility in Hutchinson, KS is producing the nacelles and hubs for the turbines. Apart from supplying the turbines to MidAmerican, Siemens will also be handling the maintenance and servicing.

The availability of low-cost renewable energy also serves as a favorable factor for attracting data center projects by tech companies.

Gov. Branstad said that Iowa has attracted major tech companies such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook because of low energy prices and Iowa’s commitment to renewable energy. The Governor added that MidAmerican Energy’s newest project will help the state meet the demand for renewable energy that is attracting major companies and high-quality jobs to Iowa.

Factoring in the new wind projects to the existing MidAmerican Energy wind projects already underway in Grundy, Madison, O’Brien and Webster counties in Iowa, the company will have about 3,500 megawatts of wind generation capacity in the state by the end of next year. That’s enough energy to fulfill the needs of 1.05 million average households in Iowa.

With this new $280 million investment, MidAmerican Energy will have invested over $6 billion for adding wind generation capability in Iowa.

USDA Support For Cool Planet Renewable Fuels Bio-Refineries in Louisiana

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a $91 million conditional loan guarantee commitment for the construction of commercial bio-refineries by Cool Planet Energy Systems at the Port of Alexandria and two other locations in Louisiana.

Cool Planet bio fuels

Cool Planet bio fuels (photo – coolplanet.com)

This Port of Alexandria facility will be Cool Planet’s first commercial plant to be using renewable sources such as wood chips to produce high octane gasoline and other products that are chemically identical to fossil fuels.

The company announced the plan to establish three bio-refinery projects in Louisiana and broke ground on the first one at a 26-acre site at the Port of Alexandria earlier this in February. The second one will be located in Natchitoches, La. and the location for the third one hasn’t been finalized yet.

Cool Planet is investing $168 million in the three bio-refinery projects and will create a total of 72 new jobs. The investment in the Port of Alexandria project alone is $56 million, and Cool Planet is creating 24 new jobs for this project with an average annual wage of $59,600, plus benefits.

According to estimates provided by Louisiana Economic Development, the three facilities will support the creation of another 422 indirect jobs, adding up to a total job creation impact of 494 new jobs in Central Louisiana. Not to mention the hundreds of construction jobs that will be created while the three bio-refineries are being built.

Apart from 10 million tons of high-octane gasoline produced from renewable sources, the bio-refinery will also produce something called CoolTerra that acts as a soil amendment. This product enables significantly higher agricultural production and crop yields with much less water and fertilizer, while reducing the carbon emissions associated with crops.

This makes the Cool Planet bio-refinery a net carbon-negative operation, meaning that the project will actually result in the reduction of greenhouse gases.

Apart from VC fund North Bridge Venture Partners, other strategic investors in Denver-based Cool Planet Energy Systems include GE, Google Ventures, NRG Energy, BP, ConocoPhillips, and the Constellation division of Exelon.

The USDA’s support in the form of a loan guarantee will likewise speed up the commercialization of Cool Planet’s innovative production of renewable fuels.

Cool Planet CEO Howard Janzen said in a release that the umbrella of a consistent and supportive federal government policy is important to the initial commercialization of their technology. Janzen added that they expect this commercial plant to be the first of hundreds of plants their company will build across the United States.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the USDA’s support for renewable energy projects like this helps creates jobs in rural areas and leads to further expansion of the growing and increasingly significant bioeconomy, while promoting U.S. energy independence and reducing carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases.

NYC Green Buildings Plan to Save $8.5B, Create 3500 Jobs

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a sweeping Green Buildings Plan as part of an overall commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

NYCBuiltToLast

NYCBuiltToLast

The NYC Green Buildings Plan will lead to another 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions caused by buildings, in the process saving $8.5 billion in energy costs over ten years, and creating 3,500 new jobs in energy services and construction.

The “One City, Built to Last: Transforming New York City’s Buildings for a Low-Carbon Future” plan calls for a massive retrofit of both public and private buildings in the City.

That means a huge public investment for energy efficiency and alternative energy projects to retrofit every single building owned by the City which consumes a significant amount of energy. Specifically, NYC will be retrofitting some 3,000 public buildings over the next ten years, with interim goals to be met along the way.

Every year, the City will invest in high-value efficiency upgrades in 150-200 public buildings including schools, hospitals, firehouses, police precincts and libraries.

Over 450 schools will get comprehensive energy upgrades over the next five years. Solar projects to generate 100MW of energy will be undertaken on more than 300 public buildings, starting with 24 schools.

NYC will also set ambitious GHG emissions reductions targets for some 20,000 private buildings through the “retrofit accelerator” program, to be enforced with mandates in case targets are not met. Private solar generation across the city is expected to rise to 250MW in the next decade – eight times the current installed capacity.

All told, the NYC Green Buildings Plan will cut down annual emissions by another 3.4 million metric tons by 2025, or 10 percent of the green house gas emissions from buildings in New York City. This reduction is equivalent to taking 715,000 vehicles off the road.

“Climate change is an existential threat to New Yorkers and our planet. Acting now is nothing short of a moral imperative,” said Mayor de Blasio.

The energy cost savings across both public and private sectors is projected to be around $1.4 billion per year by 2025, adding up to $8.5 billion in cumulative savings over the 10-year period.

In addition to the 3,500 energy services and construction jobs created, this plan will also has several workforce training components including training and skills upgrades for more than 7,000 building staff.

The City will also involve local clean tech startups, giving them an opportunity to test cutting-edge energy technology through pilot programs.

NYC will partner with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on the Energy Performance Contract program to undertake large-scale energy efficiency measures. HUD is dedicating an entire team to work with the New York City Housing Authority, the country’s largest public housing owner.

HUD Secretary Julian Castro said in a release that HUD has already leveraged more than $1 billion across the country for retrofitting aging public housing buildings, and they are looking forward to expanding the program in New York City.

Read the full One City:Built to Last Plan – Download (pdf)

Oemeta Selects Salt Lake County, Utah for First U.S. Manufacturing Facility

Oemeta, a German company that provides environmentally friendly metalworking fluids, announced plans to open their first U.S. manufacturing facility in Salt Lake County, Utah.

Oemeta

Oemeta (photo – oemeta.com)

The company plans to invest $5.25 million to establish the high-tech manufacturing facility, and expects to create 58 new jobs over the next seven years.

These jobs will pay wages and medical benefits that will, in aggregate, exceed 125 percent of the county’s prevailing average wage. The new state wages over the seven-year period are projected to exceed $12.6 million.

Oemeta’s biobased technology is safer than traditional petrochemicals and other chemicals used as coolants and metalworking fluids in industrial machining. The company’s USDA certified biobased products are used by major automotive clients such as Audi and BMW.

Oemeta’s North American headquarters is in Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada, and their U.S. offices are based out of Fort Lee, NJ.

In order to secure the project for Salt Lake County and Utah, the Board of Directors of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development approved up to $113,447 in tax credits for Oemeta.

Every year, as the company fulfills its job creation commitments under the seven-year contract with the state, a portion of the tax credits allocated will be made available as an Economic Development Tax Increment Finance incentive.

The Oemeta facility is expected to generate $567,233 in new state taxes over the seven-year agreement period. The total amount in EDTIF incentives being provided is 20 percent of the tax revenue expected to be generated by the project.

Val Hale, executive director of GOED, said that Oemeta’s addition to Utah’s growing list of manufacturing companies hits home two major points – that Utah is actively recruiting foreign firms to invest in the state, and is increasingly aware of bringing environmentally friendly companies to the state.

Utah recently announced a $79 million environment-friendly greenhouse tomato farm project in Juab County, UT by Houweling’s Tomatoes which is bringing 280 new jobs to the state, along with cutting-edge sustainable farming and climate control technology.

Andrew Leech, president and CEO of Oemeta Inc., said they are looking forward to continue working with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development in their commitment to incorporating the value of more environmentally friendly industrial machining processes.

Utah Economic Development Corp President and CEO Jeff Edwards said Utah continues to attract high-tech companies from around the world thanks to low taxes, a skilled workforce and sound regulations.

New York Consolidates Solar Programs Into $1B NY-Sun Incentive Program

New York is merging all its varied solar programs under the NY-Sun Incentive Program as a single $1 billion initiative to support the state’s solar economy.

NY-Sun Solar Incentive program

NY-Sun Solar Incentive program (photo – ny-sun.ny.gov)

The consolidation of all the programs under NY-Sun will add more than 3,000 MW to New York State’s solar capacity by 2023, with the aim of transforming the solar market into a self-sustaining industry.

The announcement was made by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, who said that merging these programs into the NY-Sun Incentive Program will stimulate development of solar projects across the state, and sends a clear message that New York is a leader in solar energy innovation.

The NY-Sun program makes use of a MW block system approach which responds to changes in market conditions, so the solar market in each of the state’s regions can grow at its own pace. Incentives will therefore be eliminated faster in regions where the solar market becomes sustainable on its own.

The MW block system divides New York into Upstate, Long Island and Con Edison territory. Each region is assigned a MW block and incentive levels for residential solar and small non-residential solar projects. When sectors in one of these three regions hit a MW block target for either type of project, a new MW block target is set at a lower incentive. Once all blocks are filled, the incentive will be completely eliminated for that region and sector.

The NY-Sun Incentive Program is expected to stimulate market investment because it provides incentives even for non-residential systems installed through power purchase agreements and leases, and also because it increases the size of eligible non-residential systems from 100 kW to 200 kW.

In the first two years since NY-Sun was established, a total of 316 MW of solar photovoltaic capacity has been installed or is under contract. This exceeds the capacity added in the entire prior decade.

Installation of the NY-Sun projects will help New York State reduce 116,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions – the equivalent of taking 23,000 cars off the road.

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority President and CEO John B. Rhodes said the days of start-and-stop solar incentive programs in the state are over. Rhodes said that the NY-Sun Incentive Program will provide much-needed funding certainty and transparency to the market for stimulating the continued private sector growth of the solar industry.

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