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Published on June 22nd, 2014 | by Tina Casey

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First Wind Blows Up Green Jobs With 320 MW Buy

June 22nd, 2014 by  


The major wind developer First Wind is best known for you guessed it, wind power, but with a new 320 megawatt deal in Utah the company has begun to flex its solar muscles, too. That’s great news for green jobs in Utah, as the new solar development is expected to pour dollars and jobs into the state’s economy.

The new First Wind solar project also adds a big solar feather to the cap of well-known wind power fan and green jobs creator Warren Buffett. The utility Rocky Mountain Power already has dibs on all 320 MW, and if that name doesn’t ring a bell check out its parent company, the legendary investor’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy group.

First Wind creates 500 green jobs in Utah.

Wind Farm courtesy of First Wind.

Green Jobs For Utah…

The new First Wind Utah solar project follows a pattern similar to First Wind’s solar project in Massachusetts, which launched last year (First Wind is headquartered in Boston, btw).

The Massachusetts project is relatively small, at a combined 17 MW pulling together sites in two different communities.

First Wind’s previous solar project in Utah also clocked in at the small end of the scale. That would be the somewhat ironically named “Seven Sisters,” consisting of seven separate photovoltaic arrays in two different counties (not seven different oil companies, as the name suggests). The seven combined add up 20 MW .

With that solar development experience under its belt, First Wind has scaled things up considerably for the 320 MW Utah solar project, which covers four sites in Beaver and Iron Counties.

Dubbed “Four Brothers,” the new project will consist of four 80 MW sites, three in Beaver County and one in Iron County.

According to First Wind, that provides the southern part of Utah with a total of 650 MW of clean energy if you add Seven Sisters, Four Brothers, and the company’s existing Milford Wind project all together.

Construction on Four Brothers is expected to start in 2015, generating 500 construction jobs. It will also pump $66 million in property and income taxes into the state’s economy over the 20 year lifespan of the power purchase agreement, building up a green jobs ripple effect.

Here’s Beaver County Commissioner Mark Whitney waxing enthusiastic about the impact on his rural county:

We are excited to be part of Utah’s clean energy revolution, which will transform this rural part of Southern Utah into a hub of renewable energy production. In addition to the clean energy, these solar projects will be a boon for our local economy through hundreds of construction jobs and new property and tax revenue that will help support our community, schools and other municipal needs.

We have been fortunate to partner with First Wind for nearly a decade now as part of its wind development efforts and we are very pleased to expand our collaboration into solar energy.

…But Not For Thee, Ohio

Is it just us, or did we catch Commissioner Whitney rubbing Ohio’s nose in it? While Utah was celebrating hundreds of new green jobs, just last week the Republican dominated Ohio state legislature passed — and Governor Kasich signed into law — two bills that effectively killed the Ohio wind industry.

That’s not just bad news for the wind industry, it could also have a ripple effect on the solar market. As First Wind’s foray into the solar market shows, companies that stake out turf in one form of renewable energy are learning lessons and gaining experience in areas that translate into other forms of renewable energy.

First Wind laid the groundwork for its Utah solar deals with its previous wind projects, including a healthy dose of community relations in the form of scholarships and learning opportunities for local high school students, on top of ongoing jobs and other economic contributions.

Well, it’s not likely that First Wind will be poking around Ohio any time soon.

 

As for why the peoples’ representatives would kill the wind industry in the very state that the inventor of wind-generated electricity called home, that’s a good question. The wind industry has a solid track record for generating green jobs, including a vigorous recruitment and job training program for veterans.

Here’s one clue. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Ohio is — or was, until last week — a hotbed of green job creation in the wind industry:

Ohio was one of the top five fastest growing states for wind capacity additions in 2012, with 313 MW added in 2012 and over 54,000 MW in wind resource potential. In addition, the Buckeye State leads the country in wind-related manufacturing – with more than 60 facilities (or more than 1 in every 10 in the US) producing components for the wind industry.

Who could hate it?

We for one were shocked — shocked! — to find that lobbying by the Koch brothers has going on in Ohio, but there you have it.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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