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February 21, 2013 / Matt Jennings

Clean Energy: States and Cities in the Lead

Wayne Forest Solar 2

Focusing on the big picture can be helpful for analyzing the impacts for clean energy, but just as important is the impact that renewables have on individual states and communities. Localized power sources and incentive programs have transformed areas across the country and turned them into thriving clean energy hotspots. The jobs and revenue from clean energy projects have helped small towns thrive.

One such example can be found in Warsaw, North Carolina. Strata Solar recently announced a deal to build a $250 million, 100 MW solar farm in this rural city after building 12 new plants in North Carolina last year (creating a total of 450 jobs).  They are planning to build 25 more solar farms which would triple their current staff and provide competitive job opportunities for thousands of North Carolina residents. The state’s largest current PV farm is only 15.5 MW, indicating that local companies like Strata Solar are aiming high to capitalize on clean energy.

Minneapolis, Minnesota is another town that wants to make a commitment to clean energy. One of the problems with getting more wind and solar power on the electric grid is the fact that private utility companies privilege fossil fuels over renewables for energy generation. But this year, the contract that Minneapolis has with its private utilities is expiring and city council members are pushing to include more clean energy mandates in the next contract. If that fails, Minneapolis will look at establishing its own municipal utility, following the lead of Boulder, CO in producing its own energy and ensuring that energy is increasingly generated by renewables.  The new municipal energy company will be put on the ballot for a citizen vote if the existing providers do not meet the levels of renewable energy integration sought by Minneapolis.

Finally, the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan recently announced the creation of a clean energy bond aimed to provide funding for energy saving equipment through Ann Arbor’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program.  Up to $1 million in bonds will be sold to help five local businesses upgrade their properties to become more energy efficient.  Bonds are an excellent way to help finance energy efficiency upgrades, since such upgrades provide a near-guaranteed return on investment.

Though very different in scope and structure, the idea of creating a “clean energy bond” is similar to the concept behind Green America’s proposed Clean Energy Victory Bonds (CEVBs), which could be issued nationally and locally to generate billions of dollars in financing for clean energy. Citizen investments in  CEVBs will be used to fund clean energy improvements that will lower energy costs, reduce electricity demand (through efficiency), and create jobs nationwide.

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