Editorial: Let’s win the Renewable Energy race

Consider attending the approaching Illinois Renewable Resources Group (IRRG) Conference at Cliffbreakers this Thursday and the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) Fair down in Oregon on Aug. 10 & 11.

Why go? You’ll see the future—the race for the immediate future.

The curious and the supporters of renewable energy have asked for talking points on the subject.

These points and our columnist M.L. Simon’s additions are persuasive.

Talking points for Renewable Energy

l Considering the crisis in the Middle East and how we are captives of foreign oil, Renewable Energy (RE) enhances our national security because it lessens our dependence on foreign oil and can free us from dangerous entanglements throughout the OPEC world—the Middle East, Venezula and Colombia.

l A commitment to Renewable Energy is a commitment to Energy Independence.

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Ethanol and bio-diesel fuels are immediate replacements for foreign oil. In the long run, wind energy produces electricity for the production of hydrogen, the catalyst for fuel cell powered cars. Also in the immediate scenario, solar and wind energy can power batteries for electric hybrid vehicles.

l Accordingly, Renewable Energy is patriotic and good for our economy. As more and more jobs are being shifted overseas, Renewable Energy offers an opportunity for a whole new American industrial base. We can become the producers of the smallest and most efficient and low-cost wind turbines, solar panels, biomass, hydro and fuel cell generators. Renewable Energy is the industry of the future. We can export Renewable Energy products, and improve our own GNP and Balance of Trade with the world at the same time. This will provide jobs, benefiting such unions as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and all the trades who could install RE products in residential and commercial construction. Existing and new small-business entrepreneurs and large corporations can become producers, installers, wholesalers and retail outlets for RE products and systems. RE means new jobs and new companies!

l Besides being good for the economy, RE is economical. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCCA) offers a 50 percent rebate program for RE systems installed in Illinois. The typical system to get completely off the grid sells for $10,000 to $15,000. That means your system will only cost you $5,000 to $7,500, and you can sell power back to the grid to further recover your costs. Don’t forget to add in what you save by not paying utility bills! Depending upon your utility costs, your system could be paid for in five years and turn into an income center! Would you like receiving checks (instead of sending checks) from your utility company? Farmers, would you like to get paid $6,000 a year for having wind turbines in your fields?

l Even the utilities see what’s coming, and they’re investing. ComEd just announced the first large-scale wind farm in Bureau County, Illinois—a 51-MegaWatt project that can power 15,000 to 20,000 homes. Other strong wind counties in Illinois are Pike, Adams, Lee, LaSalle, McLean and Peoria. Ogle and Winnebago counties have their high points, too.

Local municipal building codes must be modified to allow wind turbines in urban areas. We have cell towers, don’t we?

l Renewable Energy is not alternative energy. Renewable Energy means national security, independence, patriotism and economic opportunity. Non-renewable energy is oil and coal. Renewable Energy—solar, hydro, biomass, fuel cells and wind—is the common-sense energy of the future—the possibilities are here today!

Let’s redevelop the Rockford area’s industrial base to attract manufacturers of these RE products; or better yet, retool Rockford’s existing industries to produce these RE systems.

How wonderful our local economy would be if we could produce a complete Rockford Renewable Energy System that could be installed according to the appropriate need for applications of solar, hydro, biomass, fuel cells or wind in residential and commercial buildings.

Think of the companies and jobs that could be strengthened or created for a complete Rockford Renewable Energy System. Businesses from the Council of 100 down to the smallest job shop, plus wholesalers, retailers and installers would have a brand-new industrial base, product line and market. Accordingly, all labor unions should support Renewable Energy. the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) sees the future and is on board. Yes, Rockford could export energy instead of importing energy and become known as the Silicon Valley of Renewable Energy throughout the nation and the world.

Let’s compete to be the leading edge of a reality that is upon us. Within five years, all of these Renewable Energy products will be on the mass market. Will Rockford be reactive or proactive, buying or selling, losing or winning money in this technological race?

The Renewable Energy race is on full throttle. If you still don’t believe it, look at the following from e-mails received from our columnist M.L. Simon, who is becoming an expert in the field (He will be one of the featured speakers at the Illinois Renewable Energy Fair down in Oregon, Aug. 10 &11):

Simon on wind energy

l In 2001 the US of A was the fastest growing wind power market in the world. It was 2nd largest market in the world so we are not doing too bad, and we will soon be #1.

The following global companies are planning to build manufacturing capacity in the US of A: Companies such as Bonus from Denmark, Gamesa from Spain, Mitsubishi from Japan, Nordex from Germany, Suzlon from India, and Vestas from Denmark are the world leaders in wind turbine manufacturing. GE is getting involved.

Read more here: http://www.evworld.com/databases/storybuilder.cfm?storyid=366

These greedy global corporations are flocking to America because they think they can make a profit. It just seems unstoppable. Profits are a better lure than mandates.

Simon on coal, wind and fuel cells

l With the tax credit, wind is now competitive with coal. Coal prices have collapsed, and mines are going out of business. We have seen the last of the new coal fired plants in Illinois. Yippee!

Thanks to Congress and the tax credit. In fact, instead of a declining credit, they have an increasing (for inflation) one. The gold rush is on! Just as I predicted would happen when it reaches price parity with coal. Congress really piled on the coal on this one. Pun intended. Expect more announcements as the gold rush gets into high gear. Every utility needs to get into wind this year to get up the learning curve so that when unsubsidized wind is cheaper than coal, they will have experience. Let us hope your and my efforts have done a little to move things along. At the very least, our community is prepared.

With all this new technology that you and I are aware of, there is a whole new era coming. Right now we have the problem of demand but no supply.

The Toyota Prius demand in America is three times what it is in Japan on a per capita basis. Our market is two times the size of Japan. In other words American demand for the hybrid is six times the demand in Japan. This is an astounding demand for a vehicle that is selling two times to three times the expected volume. The first Ford and Chrysler production hybrids will be on the market in just 16 months.

Wind is here and there is a fever to be the first with a viable fuel cell with enough production to support 100 to 300 vehicles on the road by 2003 to 2005, with the latter date the more likely and perhaps not till 2006.

There are a lot of people in the race. So 2003 is not impossible either. Volume production is expected about four to five years after fleet introduction. The fleet needs to be on the road for one to two years to work out the bugs, and then it takes three years to tool up for mass production, get all the parts ordered and get the flow going.

Simon on wind energy in other states

l “Texas installed 900 MW last year.

“Total US of A was 1,700 MW. This year could be 3,000 Mega Watts nation wide or more. Next year could double that. We need to get a declining subsidy after four years or so to let the industry down gently, so we don’t get a sudden crash. Or make it permanent.

“Kansas is vying to beat Texas this year as the state with the most new wind power in the US. While federal environmental laws and local zoning laws still apply, Kansas has eliminated all state regulations and permits to speed development of “wind farming”, as it’s called. Kansas also eliminated all property tax on wind equipment, forever. It turns out rural Kansas is a very windy place (of course, they have been saying that all along), and now thanks to wind power, there’s a bit more scenery to look at and a bit more money to go around.”

Simon on wind energy, GE & Enron

l “GE Wind Energy is the new subsidiary of GE Power Systems, which recently acquired the manufacturing capability of Enron Wind Corp., the largest U.S. utility-scale wind turbine manufacturer. Shell WindEnergy, Inc., a subsidiary of Shell, has purchased an 80-Mega Watt wind plant near Amarillo, Tex., and a 41-Mega Watt facility in southern California, owns a 50-Mega Watt wind project in Wyoming, and is developing or operating more than 1,000 Mega Watts of wind in the U.S. and Europe,” concluded Simon’s e-mails.

The proof of the powerful economics of Renewable Energy is irrefutable. Will Rockford lead Illinois in renewable research and commercial development, or will we stay behind the times and lose our opportunity because we failed to move and compete?

With IRRG’s conference Cliffbreakers and IREA’s fair in Oregon, we are off to a good start, but local and area industries, business groups and governments must commit their personnel and money to the path of Renewable Energy—very quickly—to win the race. Let’s produce a complete and competitive Rockford Renewable Energy System. Let’s beat the big boys.

Look out, Money magazine!

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