The conversation over what renewable energy source is best for Connecticut should start with which one of the many choices enhances the state’s economy and future.
The renewable energy industry is very much in a unique position to meet the state’s needs and goals for renewable energy. While solar and wind technologies are well known and have high value to convert wind and sunlight to renewable electricity, lesser known technologies such as hydrogen, fuel cell, and oil-free Organic Rankine Cycle can also produce and/or store renewable power.
Hydrogen stores intermittent solar and wind energy when needed. Fuel cell technology can make usable heat and power for industry and transportation with a variety of hydrogen rich fuels for cost-effective power production. Organic Rankine Cycle technology converts low-value waste heat into high-quality electricity.
And perhaps the greatest benefit of all is that these cost-effective advanced technologies are eligible Class 1 Renewable energy sources located and made in Connecticut with our workforce.
These in-state manufacturers already contribute significantly to Connecticut’s economy. A global manufacturing cluster of the hydrogen and fuel cell industry is in the Northeast with prime exporting manufacturers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. The Connecticut-based manufacturing hub provides our state with more than $600 million per year in revenue and investments, over $31 million per year in state and local tax revenue, and some 2,800 jobs. The oil-free Organic Rankine Cycle industry also has its manufacturing facility here in Connecticut with over 60 employees and is poised to grow and enter the global market. These advanced technology manufacturers are remarkable and ready to meet and exceed the state’s 40 percent renewable goal by 2030.
There is no need to go out of state or to favor foreign-made technologies to meet Connecticut’s renewable energy goals. Further, these compact hydrogen, fuel cell, and oil-free Organic Rankine Cycle technologies require minimal land resources and can be easily installed on existing developed sites without adverse impacts to wildlife, agriculture or forest habitats. Indeed, these renewable power facilities can fit inside buildings and produce cost-effective power with a high-capacity factor that eliminates the need for expensive back-up power. The power from these technologies is always ready for dispatch regardless of wind conditions or time of day when the sun may or may not be shining. And, as suggested by the Connecticut renewable energy bids, these high-efficiency technologies will be in high demand to reduce energy costs.
Investment in the Connecticut renewable energy industry with deployment in the state is appropriate to meet renewable energy goals, avoid adverse impacts to our environment, and provide an added benefit; we make the technology right here in Connecticut with thousands of great jobs! Our most significant resource is our educated and well-trained workforce that makes advanced technologies here for export to global markets.
This is our competitive advantage. So, we do not need to compromise. We can have it all with low-cost renewable power that protects our environment, boosts the economy and produces jobs.
Joel M. Rinebold is Director of Energy for the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology.