Bringing on the power: Ohio's push for advanced energy

It takes time, money and leadership to change how energy in this country is produced, stored and transmitted. And the state of Ohio is taking a step into the future through a $150 million economic stimulus plan offering grants and loans for existing businesses to retool, or for new ones to become part of the green energy manufacturing chain.

That includes tapping into renewable and cleaner energy sources like solar, geothermal and wind. These sources, of course, have been around since the beginning of time, but for decades have been too costly or difficult to harness compared to their traditional fossil fuel counterparts.

But that's beginning to change as harnessing technology becomes more practical and cost effective.

The ultimate goal is for Ohio to become an innovator in the commercialization and development of products related to these new technologies. Ohio's plan is multi-faceted and includes getting in on the ground floor of the renewable energy sector and upping the state's renewable energy use.

So before you see a neighborhood like Pleasant Ridge with rooftops glistening with solar panels, wind turbines on the top of downtown skyscrapers or METRO buses without the dark puff of smoke trailing behind them someone has to put together those panels and turbines and fuel those buses.

That's where Cincinnati comes in.

What this means for our region is that there will be a guaranteed market for these new sources of energy, and the products to produce, store and harness it, with a push from the state. And though the economy is rough right now, a significant part of the economic stimulus plan proposed by incoming President Barack Obama is focused on job creation through upgrading the country's infrastructure and developing the country's renewable energy resources.

"Basically somebody is going have to make it," said Greg Hume, with TechSolve, an efficiency consulting firm. "And the market looks extremely bright depending on where the (Obama) administration goes with this."

The stimulus comes as the state bleeds old-school manufacturing jobs. And at the same time traditional energy costs are rising – and so is environmental consciousness. It's a perfect time to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit by investing in Ohio's, and Cincinnati's, manufacturing workforce for new generation of products.

The emphasis on new jobs works with the state's vision for new reliance on renewable energy sources outlined in a bill lawmakers passed last year.

That law requires that:
  • 25 percent of all electricity sold be from advanced energy sources (including "clean coal").
  • At least 12.5 percent must come from renewable sources including wind, solar and biomass
  • At least 50 percent must be generated in Ohio
There are already some companies in Greater Cincinnati who have gotten into green energy manufacturing including Milacron, Inc. in Mt Orab, and General Tool, in Reading, which both make parts for wind turbines. But the region is just at the beginning stages of its potential.

Helping jumpstart Greater Cincinnati's role in the state effort,  the City of Sharonville, along with Cincinnati State and Technical and Community College, recently hosted the state Department of Development and the Air Quality Development Authority in an afternoon workshop entitled "Accelerating the Advanced Energy Supply Chain in Ohio."

More than 250 southwest Ohioans attended the free event, including local government and education officials and business owners from traditional and emerging manufacturing and business sectors.

"(These agencies) have been traveling the state informing businesses about Ohio Job Stimulus grant money. They focus in on retraining the workforce and resupplying energy transmission with wind turbines, for example," explains Tammy Riddle, City of Sharonville's Economic Development Specialist.

Riddle said several Sharonville companies have inquired about applying for state funds to retool their existing manufacturing companies following the conference.

Of course, you can't make these products without some retraining and that's where local colleges and universities come in. One place at the forefront is Cincinnati State, which among other things offers a sustainable design and construction certificate and photovoltaic installer certification for those looking to install solar panels.

"Part of what that state is trying to do is create an economic stimulus affect by growing new industry and creating new jobs," says Bob White, spokesman for Cincinnati State. "We help with that in two ways; we train raw students out of high school, and we also have a branch campus that will do customized training for corporations."

These industry specific programs will train in factories or in the work center.

"We have a lot of expertise with energy technology," White said, including geothermal and solar.
But there's still work to do before these energy sources become common place in businesses and homes, and that starts with large-scale change in how manufacturers supply their own energy, and in the kind of products they create.

Just the FAQs
So what opportunities are out there for Greater Cincinnati businesses seeking information for advanced energy programs? Find out more including details and an application here. Some eligible products available include:
  • Fuel cells
  • Advanced solid waste or construction and demolition debris conversion technologies resulting in measurable greenhouse gas emissions reductions
  • Renewable energy resources including energy derived from sources including solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, certain fuels derived from solid wastes not derived principally derived from combustion, certain byproducts of the pulping or wood manufacturing process and storage facilities that promote better utilization of a renewable energy resource
  • Increased efficiency in electricity generation without additional carbon dioxide emissions
  • Any university or group of universities conducting research on any advanced energy resource or any not-for-profit corporation having small business members formed to address issues affecting price and availability of electricity (this category will be addressed through a stand-alone RFP to be released at a later date)
  • Any independent group located in Ohio with the express objective of educating small business about renewable energy resources and energy efficiency programs or any small business electing to utilize such a resource or program (this category will be addressed through a stand-alone RFP to be released at a later date)
  • Any technologies, products, activities or management practices or strategies that reduce or support the reduction of energy consumption or support the production of clean renewable energy.
Source: Ohio Advanced Energy Program Website

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Feoshia Henderson is a former Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky daily news reporter. She now runs her own freelance writing business and blogs about the Cincinnati suburbs at

Photography by Scott Beseler
Windmills, provided by Duke Energy
"Accelerating the Advanced Energy Supply Chain in Ohio," workshop in Sharonville
Wind power, provided by Duke Energy
Elliott Ruther, of Cincinnati State Technical & Community College, Director of Development
Wind mill hill, provided by Duke Energy
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