Panel on solar energy and job creation meets in St. Pete

01/30/09 Arielle Stevenson
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While many are focusing on the Super Bowl, many in St. Petersburg made their way through the rain to attend a panel on Florida's Renewable Energy and Green Jobs Future sponsored by Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy at St. Petersburg College.

On the table: Solar Power potential in the Sunshine state. Wayne Wallace is president of Solar Source, a company that has been developing solar technologies in Florida since 1984. He says, Florida is primed for solar as a renewable energy.

But many of the roadblocks in developing Florida’s renewable energy technologies stem from policy, according to John Burges, who spent most of his career in investments but now works as managing director for Think Energy. Burges says that developing renewables like solar involves proving to investors that there is capital gain.

Burges says that 19 countries in Europe have used a policy system called Feed In Tarriffs, where people in the community get financial assistance from investors to put solar panels on their homes. When they produce more energy than they consume, that energy can then be sold back to the utility and distributed to the community. However Burges explains, the policy in place in Florida is quite the opposite.

The city of Gainsville heard about Germany’s development of these technologies through the use of Feed In Tarriffs and municipal utility companies and has now applied the same system to their community, which Burges says makes them the first to use the system in North America.

Wayne Wallace says renewable energy technologies like solar power create lower costs for citizens on their electric bills, but also stimulates economic growth. Germany, like Florida, only had 2 percent renewable technologies overall and no jobs in the industry; but now Germany offsets Co2 emmissions and produces 18 percent of the country's energy using solar, which has resulted in 50,000 jobs. It was a huge incentive for Germany and Gainsville in adopting the program.

Gainsville’s Feed In Tarriff will be approved and put into practice next week. Burges says that many European investors will be attending the intiation in hopes of investing in solar and technologies in Florida.

Closer to home. St. Petersburg City Councilman Carl Nurse also spoke at last night’s panel about some of the programs St. Pete will be implementing in the area of energy efficiency and renewables.

Nurse also spoke about how President Obama’s stimulus package will affect St. Petersburg in relation to renewable technologies.

Next week, FARE, along with the Alliance for Renewable Energy and the Florida Municipal Electric Association will meeting in Tallahassee for a discussion on green collar job creation, long term investments in solar and renewables along with improving energy security.

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