Tags: Amory Lovins, Ball State University (BSU) geothermal system, Brevini Wind, Delaware County (IN), Delaware County (IN) Redeveolpment Director Brad Bookout, Duke Energy IGCC, I&M Cook Nuclear Power Plant, Indiana wind farm Wildcat One, Oliver Viehweider, VAT Energies
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By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, IN – Renewable energy like wind, solar and geothermal could be the norm in 50 years and Delaware County continues to lead the nation and world in manufacturing and application of wind turbines and geothermal heating and cooling systems.
Despite a Tom and Jerry episode between Democrats and Republicans over tax incentives given to Brevini Wind and its German handyman, VAT Energies, the market for renewable energy still comes to Muncie to see that $90 million plus geothermal system that Ball State University will ultimately use to heat and cool its campus.
It was amusing to see big media turn renewable energy into a folly and failure without mentioning one word about Congress and the Indiana General Assembly failing to create more tax incentives and even mandates for renewable energy. And it was also troubling not a word was mentioned about renown physicist Amory Lovins who offered a 1984 review that the United States was losing the energy war to Germany while spending time criticizing German national Oliver Viehweider for never creating a single job while promising to build a wind vane to brand Delaware County just like the Nestle Quick Bunny in Anderson as the renewable energy capital of the word.
Sure, millions in tax incentives were provided to Brevini and VAT and some of that money will never be recovered. That is still small comparing nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in property tax abatement to General Motors and Borg-Warner Automotive just to see the Chevrolet plant become a gravel lot and the Borg-Warner factory an empty shell.
Brad Bookout, county redevelopment director, pointed to neighbor Ohio to explain what needed to be done to continue to future of renewable energy. The Ohio Legislature mandated public utilities acquire a portion of their energy from renewable sources that developed both wind and solar facilities.
Indiana and its Republican controlled Legislature is beholding to oil and coal and state utility regulators are more interested in unproven technology like coal gasification that Duke Energy is spending billions to build or to support Indiana Michigan Power and its dependence on that big Cook Nuclear Plant besides other fossil fuels.
Indiana Michigan has taken steps to use renewable energy like the wind farm, Wildcat One, that is being built north of Elwood in Madison and Tipton counties. Indiana is not the windy state like the great West and both sides of the Rocky Mountain.
But as Ball State proved, Indiana has vast water resources like the rest of the Midwest with the largest fresh water source in North American, the Great Lakes. And Ball State seems to attract the attention of dozens of universities and institutions that want to kick the coal and oil habit.
Lovins also pointed out during his speech on the Ball State campus that Congress effectively killed the renewable energy industry in 2010 with denying incentives and funding. That Republican crowd that again is supported by big oil and coal continues to push for the Keystone XL pipeline to bring oil from coal shale from Canada to Texas.Even President Barack Obama signed on to support a portion of that project much to the concern of environmental groups and renewable energy advocates.
Lovins described sustainable energy as reinventing fire and predicted it could take half a century for the greatest country in the world to evolve. It could take Germany less than 10 years with plans to shut down nuclear reactors and go totally with wind, solar, and geothermal power.
And Germany and its Volkswagen industrial and military machine, will be mass producing electric, carbon fiber body cars next year with a new battery guaranteed to last for days while United States motorists pay nearly $5 a gallon for gasoline while spending a trillion dollars a year to keep the military securing Mideast oil fields in the name of fighting Islamic terrorism.
Muncie Star Press OpEd: Gone despite the wind: economic development bust (Part 2 of 3) March 28, 2012Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
Tags: Brevini Wind, Delaware County (IN), Delaware County Commissioners President Todd Donati, Larry Riley, Oliver Viehweider, VAT Energies
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Part 2 of 3
Written by Larry Riley.
Larry Riley teaches English as Ball State University. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So long as the Earth is turning, wind blows across the planet’s surface, providing a fount of energy that can be harnessed to produce electricity. The best national places to tap because of wind speed and constancy are well known:
West Wyoming, southwest Montana, Idaho, northeast Utah, western Colorado.
All places really far away from high voltage transmission lines the type of which are needed to transport power from these locales remote from much of the nation’s civilization.
I thought that the Obama administration’s 2009-2010 stimulus packages included planning and even construction to connect lots of these places to the nation’s electric grid and promote renewable wind energy.
If that ever was the intent, the endeavor dissipated, like so much stimulus funding seemed to do in the end.
Thus the once promising Brevini Wind manufacturing and assembly operation, so embraced locally in October of 2008, portent of a halcyon future, saw a potential domestic market, racked by the Great Recession, further dry up.
What was once so promising — 455 high-paying jobs, a $21 million payroll — now is a struggle to retain the workforce of 60.
Delaware County government and Brevini Wind last week changed the 2008 agreement to acknowledge reality, and what yet may develop remains encouraging.
Brevini is to have at least 200 full-time workers, with payroll of $9.7 million, perhaps as early as next spring. The date will depend on how long Delaware County takes to get a rail spur constructed into Park One industrial campus along I-69 and Ind. 332.
That project, once bid out for construction only to go back almost to square 1 thanks to an incredibly malingering federal bureaucracy, might get to construction this summer.
Within another two years, Brevini is to employ at least 410 at an annual payroll of $18.6 million.
The new agreements have teeth missing in the original: Failure to meet 90 percent of the employment goals brings about damages through direct payments to Delaware County.
For example, if Brevini only employs 150 people by next year’s deadline, the company would owe Delaware County $165,000 in penalties.
Brevini also is foregoing $5 million in revenues originally guaranteed, but will get $1.69 million from the county.
One has to have hope Brevini’s local future pans out in a big way.
We have no hope for recouping much, if any, of a $1.5 million county investment related to, but separate from, Brevini, that of the ill-fated company VAT and its owner Oliver Viehweider, a German national then working for Brevini.
Viehweider and local officials, notably Todd Donati, president of the Delaware County commissioners, and the county’s redevelopment commission, agreed to a novel model for job creation in the summer of 2009.
VAT would employ 105 people to manufacture and install solar- and wind-powered streetlights, and Delaware County would buy $645,000 worth of the first batch. Further, the county would fork over another $600,000 in a forgivable loan, provided that VAT invest $3.3 million in facilities at Park One near, or even adjoining, Brevini.
VAT was going to provide maintenance service on some of Brevini’s large wind turbines, including ones that should be dotting those rustic areas of the Far West.
In addition, VAT would sell the county a $255,000 vertical vane wind-powered generator to be erected along I-69 to serve as a symbol of local leadership in green technologies.
The source of the money, by the way, was the inexhaustible Morrison Road Tax Incremental Finance district, even though no investment was going into that district.
At the time, I wrote a column renaming the TIF the “Morrison Road Piggy Bank,” and recalled county officials had just finished shaking the bank upside down to spend $1.3 million for fire trucks for a desperate city fire department.
At least Muncie got the fire trucks and they work well. The VAT streetlight scheme was a mammoth bust. A handful of puny lights that look like they were made in China got erected in Park One and a few more in Canan Commons downtown.
No one ever saw hide nor hair of any quarter-million dollar landmark vertical vane. Half the $600,000 loan should have been repaid two years ago for failing to meet deadlines, but that didn’t happen.
No one knows how $1.4 million given to Viehweider — paid despite his failure to meet required benchmarks — was spent, but clearly not in garnering any assets the county can go after.
Now a new agreement with Viehweider has the county standing to write off everything. Half of any Viehweider earnings the next three years in excess of $60,000 — surprise, he does not make that much annually right now — will be paid to the county, up to $300,000 total.
Viehweider also may sell off what are reportedly 13 streetlights still in storage (we paid $9,000 apiece for the ones we bought: don’t look for them to fetch such prices) and use some of that toward his $300,000 maximum county reimbursement.
At best, we’ll recoup 21 cents on the dollar.
Tags: Abound Solar, Brevini Wind, Bright Automotive, Carbon Motors, EnerDel, Think Global, VAT Energies
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Dear Blog readers:
This is Part 1 of a 3-part post on newspaper articles from Muncie. The flurry of activity started last week on the Vernal Equinox (3/20/2012) or Spring Equinox. There is so much stuff out there it is making my head spin. I know that I should read and digest all this information and try to write a comprehensive blog post incorporating all this information. I might get to doing that one day but it won’t be this week. Also Inside Indiana Business has covered some aspects of these developments. See County Revises Major Economic Development Deal.
It is a shame that these stories broke at the same time that Ball State University (BSU) celebrated the dedication of the first phase of its geothermal system with a presentation by Amory Lovins with tidbits from his new book entitled, Reinventing Fire. Lovins’ new book and the geothermal dedication deserve another blog post on its own. I have been waiting, however, for the folks at BSU to post the video of the dedication so that I can post it here. I guess I need to check on that.
I don’t just want to focus on the bad news BUT I think you need to know about this stuff.
I think this activity deserves some thought and discussion. Is anyone else interested in a telephone conference call or meeting to discuss these recent developments in Indiana? Please let me know. OK?
Laura Ann Arnold
Green Energy faces hurdles in Indiana? How do you read the tea leaves?
Carbon Motors among firms struggling as bubble bursts
7:51 PM, Mar. 20, 2012, Muncie Star Press Editorial http://www.thestarpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012203210312
The Green Energy movement. It held such great economic promise just five short years ago, when some economists were predicting Indiana could add 45,000 jobs as the demand for electric vehicles, wind turbines and other products ramped up.
Now green energy has become, in many cases, an unaffordable pipe dream propped up by heavy government subsidies — that is if the startup firm managed to produce more than a prototype vehicle.
Consider the following for Indiana:
• Hybrid van maker Bright Automotive pulled the plug on operations last month after the Energy Department failed to finalize a $314 million loan three years after the company sought the money.
• Norwegian electric car maker Think Global, with a plant in Elkhart, filed for bankruptcy last year. A reorganized company with new owners plans to restart production of the tiny electric car.
• The future of Connersville’s Carbon Motors is very much in doubt as the Energy Department decided not to loan the company $310 million to produce high-tech, fuel efficient, purpose built police cars.
• EnerDel parent, Ener1, a maker of lithium-ion batteries for plug-in electric cars, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, citing competition from battery makers in China and South Korea. The company employed 250 workers last November in Indiana, but had planned to have 1,400 workers in Indianapolis before 2015. The company had supplied Think Global and other firms with batteries.
• Solar panel manufacturer Abound Solar is planning to start production in an unfinished transmission plant just west of Tipton next year. The company plans to hire between 800 and 1,000 workers as part of a $400 million federal loan guarantee. Little outward changes have been made to the building since Getrag abandoned it back in 2008.
Delaware County has not been left untouched by the bursting of the Green Energy bubble. As reported in Tuesday’s Star Press, wind and solar streetlight maker VAT Energies is essentially not operating. The promise of about 100 jobs in exchange for $1.5 million in incentives from Delaware County resulted in a couple of dozen streetlights installed and 13 more in storage in the unused BorgWarner plant.
In addition, Brevini Wind has struggled to ramp up employee numbers as the demand for wind turbines has stalled. Fortunately, gear boxes can be used in other applications, so it would be premature to write off Brevini Wind as a bust.
Delaware County officials involved with incentives deserve credit for taking steps to limit the financial loss to the county by restructuring agreements and recovering some funds already expended on VAT and Brevini.
It’s a hard rule of economics that most new businesses fail. And during the depths of the Great Recession, economic leaders were willing to see Green Energy as the holy grail of future job growth.
That might still happen, but economic conditions will have to change to make alternative energy sources and transportation economically viable.
With a gallon of gas rising 40 cents overnight to $4.19, that serves to remind that Green Energy projects might yet have some life, but the days of unbridled enthusiasm for them appear to be over.
— The (Muncie) Star Press