7 Green Energy Hot Spots

October 29, 2009 at 10:12 AM Leave a comment

Tucson Electric Power

Some experts believe innovation in green energy is poised to lift the global economy to new heights – and save the planet from a human-made climate catastrophe. If so, where does one head to get in on the action?

Innovators at work in San Francisco Bay Area
Andy Kuno / Reuters file

Innovators at work in San Francisco Bay Area

Innovators in the San Francisco Bay Area were on the cutting edge of the technology boom. Now they are at the forefront of the green energy revolution, notes Mark Muro, a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., who studies green energy initiatives across the country. Local startups that make everything from thin-film solar cells to tools to smarten up the electricity grid have ample funds from local venture capital firms. Many of the engineers designing the green energy revolution were schooled at institutions such as Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley – where U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu taught before he was tapped to join the Obama administration.

Seattle gets fancy with stimulus funding
Otto Greule Jr. / Getty Images

Seattle gets fancy with stimulus funding

Emerald is a fancy kind of green, which is fitting for the highly educated citizens of Seattle, the Emerald City. The mayor, Greg Nickels, launched a nationwide mayoral initiative in 2005 to meet the greenhouse gas reduction goals of the Kyoto Protocol, a United Nations climate change-fighting plan that the United States has not ratified. More recently, the city announced plans to use federal government stimulus funds to improve energy efficiency in homes and joined a regional effort to use the money to build long-lasting green energy infrastructure such as light rail and a smart electricity grid.

Ohio, a leader in clean energy jobs
Mark Duncan / AP

Ohio, a leader in clean energy jobs

The slowdown in the auto industry and manufacturing threw a curveball to Ohio, but the state is swinging back with healthy investment in the green energy economy. Ohio was ranked among the top five states with the most green jobs in a recent report by the Pew Center on the States, a Washington, D.C.-based research group. Spurring the growth are programs such as the Cleveland-based Fund for our Economic Future, which is making grants to initiatives seeking to grow the state’s advanced energy industry, including battery technologies. And Ohio State University’s Institute for Energy and the Environment is poised to nurture future leaders in the state’s green revolution.

Denver metropolitan area has renewable buzz
Stan Obert / Denver Visitors Bureau

Denver metropolitan area has renewable buzz

Since the late 1970s, U.S. government scientists focused on green energy have gathered at a lab in Golden, Colo., a Denver exurb perhaps more famous as the home of Coors beer. Known as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory since 1991, the lab gets a hefty dose of taxpayer dollars to pursue R&D in green energy. Private industry as well has taken an interest in Colorado – Vestas Wind Systems, for example, has a turbine blade manufacturing facility outside Denver and will open three more plants in the state by the middle of next year. Meanwhile, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Colorado in Boulder pump out a steady stream of research on how rapidly the old energy economy is changing the planet’s climate.

New Mexico recruits solar industry
Sandia National Laboratories

New Mexico recruits solar industry

The dedication earlier this year of German-based Schott Solar’s 200,000-square-foot manufacturing facility for photovoltaic panels and tubes for large-scale solar thermal plants in Albuquerque, N.M., brought a smile to the face of Gov. Bill Richardson. The $100 million plant, he said at the dedication, “is one of the most significant economic development projects in recent state history and is a tremendous boost to our fast-growing clean energy sector.” Meanwhile, researchers at the nearby Sandia National Laboratories are helping drive innovation in the nation’s green energy economy – including the solar collection dishes shown here, which it developed with industry partners Stirling Energy Systems and Tessera Solar.

Wind energy is big in Texas
LM Otero / AP

Wind energy is big in Texas

Everything, the saying goes, is bigger in Texas. When it comes to wind energy, the saying holds true. Its 7,118 megawatts of installed wind power capacity at the end of 2008 was the most in the U.S. – more, in fact, than the combined capacity of its closest competitors, Iowa, California and Minnesota, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group. And the state has plans to build even more turbines and the transmission lines required to ship the green power to its people. A big drive to ramp up consumption of the green energy is under way in Austin, where the local utility aims to provide 30 percent of its power by 2020 from renewable sources.

Boston-area brains are thinking green
Lisa Poole / AP

Boston-area brains are thinking green

Innovation in green energy is often incubated in university research labs, making the Boston area fertile ground. Discoveries from breakthroughs in fuel cell technology to solar energy production are routinely announced from labs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. Meanwhile, civic leaders in the region are busy designing programs and incentives to make solar and wind energy a growing part of the electricity mix. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s Boston Bike’s program aims to install hundreds of miles of bike paths and bike racks throughout the city and get people pedaling with a citywide bike-sharing system.


Entry filed under: Conservation, Energy, Green Biz, Green Tech, National News, US. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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