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  1. With more than 130,000 workers currently employed in its renewable energy sector, Florida is currently undergoing a green-tech boom. While a number of cities are making their presence felt in the field of alternative energy, Tampa is leading the pack with the city currently boasting almost 9 Megawatts of customer-owned PVs. According to industry watchers, biofuel is the next big thing which is going to happen to the city’s green energy sector. Tampa Is Turning Its Trash into Cash Biomass is already a popular source of alternative energy in the US with this biomass-derived green fuel accounting for roughly half of all the renewable energy produced across the nation. In fact people in the US use more of it than any other country in the world. According to renewable energy thought leaders, as one of the most prolific sources of biomass in the United States, Tampa is poised to play a bigger role in this sector in the upcoming years. Apart from being a highly populated city, Tampa attracts millions of tourists every year, subsequently contributing to the establishment of hundreds of municipal waste facilities. With the city using these facilities to their full potential, this great volume of waste is creating huge financial opportunities for the city of sun and sand. New jobs are being created. Most importantly it is stirring up huge public interest in alternative fuels. More and more people are becoming aware of the benefits of switching from traditional fossil fuel based energy to alternative energy. All these are opening up new research opportunities and attracting investments, subsequently boosting the job market in and around the city. Ethanol-Based Biofuel Technologies Are Shaping Florida’s Energy Future Ethanol, which is a renewable fuel mainly produced from agricultural crops such as sugar cane and corn, can go a long way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut down the nation’s dependency on imported oil. In addition, green fuel generation will create jobs, subsequently stimulating the local economies. A number of research projects are being carried on in some of Tampa Bay area’s premier institutions that are focused on developing, assessing, and commercializing the technologies that may help produce sustainable Ethanol-based biofuels from inedible sources, such as biomass and algae. Green energy firm Algenol is a good case in point. This Fort Myers-based company is bringing an algae-based ethanol product to the market for the first time through a distributorship contract with a Boca Raton-based marketing company. In a news statement, the company CEO Paul Woods said that this ethanol-based product, christened as Algenol, is more efficient than its corn-based counterparts. While Algenol yields a whopping 8,000 gallons of fuel per acre per year, for corn-based ethanol the figure stands at an annual production of only 420 gallons per acre. Wood is hopeful that through its partnership with the Boca Raton firm, Algenol will be able to distribute 18 million gallons of algae-derived ethanol every year. The fuel can be used by the region’s retail fuel stations as well as fleet vehicle applications. MagneGas, Too, Holds Promise The brainchild of ex-Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Professor Ruggero Santilli, MagneGas is another alternative energy product that is hugely helping the Sunshine State in its journey toward energy independence. Made from liquid waste, such as vegetable oil, MagneGas provides a cleaner alternative to natural gas and is ideal for powering bio-fuel vehicles, cooking and heating. The fact that over 100,000 cylinders were sold in just three years, the product seems to hold strong market potential. Companies with a stake in the green energy sector are pumping in millions of dollars to pave the way for cleaner and potentially more affordable fuel solutions. Thanks to these initiatives concerning alternative energy, Tampa has emerged as one of the commendable forces in the clean-tech space. A strong partnership between the corporate sector and the universities can help the state take bigger strides toward a greener future.
  2. Renewable energy – be it solar, wind, biomass or hydroelectric – provides a plethora of benefits to Tampa’s health, climate, people and economy. With its profuse sunshine throughout the year and other steady sources of alternative energy, the city can reap the maximum advantages in terms of improved public health resulting out of an eco-friendly way of lifeWhen it comes to renewable energy, Tampa can boast of having unique plus points. Enumerated below are some of the benefits: 1. Homeowners Enjoy Tax Credits Under the Florida Renewable Energy Technologies and Energy Efficiency Act 2006, homeowners having photovoltaic systems installed can benefit in terms of tax credits. Customers who purchase solar heating equipment are eligible for a generous rebate of 4 dollars per watt with a limit of 20,000 dollars for domestic solar systems and a 100,000 dollar cap for publicly owned, commercial and private non-profit ones. 2. Enhanced Public Health The water and air pollution created by fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas plants is associated with a number of health hazards including neurological damage, breathing problems, cancer, and heart ailments. Doing away with fossil fuels and using renewable energy can lessen early mortality and overall costs associated with healthcare. 3. Reducing Global Warming Emissions Shortsighted planning and careless human activities including usage of fossil fuels are damaging our environment through emission of toxic gases. Consequently, the trapped heat increases the atmospheric temperature, adding to global warming. As per Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a New York-based non-profit environmental action group, Florida’s leading solar power plants can prevent the release of approximately 3.5 million tons of harmful gases. Generation of electricity contributes to more than one-third of America’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the bulk is produced by coal-fired power plants. This results in the production of about 25 percent of the entire global warming emissions in the US. However, most sources of renewable energy in Tampa produce very little or no global warming hazards at all. Solar and wind energy doesn’t need water to operate, and therefore don’t contaminate water bodies. Neither do they damage supply by contending with clean drinking water systems and cultivation. Fossil fuels, on the contrary, can have an adverse impact on water resources. For instance, both natural gas drilling and coal mining can infect such sources. 4. Steady Energy Costs Alternative energy use has the potential to provide cheap electricity that can stabilize costs to a considerable extent. For example, most solar organizations of the country install panels in consumers’ houses under a 20-year lease. Some of the leading companies do not even demand any upfront payment from the customers. Some companies even sell the power to the consumer at a locked-in rate, which is usually lower than the amount a household had been disbursing to a local power generation facility. Solar plants in Florida can save consumers 178 million dollars per year. In fact, the costs pertaining to renewable energy technologies have dropped gradually, and are expected to decline more. The average cost of a solar panel has reduced about 60 percent since 2011. The cost of electricity generation from wind declined more than 20 percent between 2010 and 2012. 5. Employment Opportunities In contrast to fossil fuel technologies, which are primarily capital intensive and mechanized, the renewable energy sector in the bay area is more labor-intensive. This implies that employment opportunities from this industry are higher than from fossil fuels. In fact, the renewable energy sector supports several jobs in the US. For instance, in 2011, industries associated with wind energy directly recruited 75,000 full-time employees in various jobs such as construction and turbine installation, project development, manufacturing, legal, financial, transportation and logistics, and consulting services. It’s therefore no brainer that the time has come when we must shift our focus from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Tampa residents are already tapping it in a big way, thereby contributing towards a cleaner greener environment.
  3. As consumers across the US are becoming increasingly aware of the boons of using renewable energy solutions and even businesses are reducing their dependence on fossil fuels, the solar solutions industry is flourishing in several US states including the bustling and sunny city of Tampa that has emerged as a hub of renewable energy. Currently, hundreds of solar technology companies are catering to residential and commercial needs in the city, offering a variety of solutions, right from solar lighting to solar hot water systems, solar pool heating and more. A combination of Federal tax incentives, grants and easy loans for such projects and the diminishing cost of solar equipment is not only spurring solar energy projects across the city but also calling for more manpower to join the trade. The role of solar solutions is therefore not just restricted to a consumer’s personal financial gains, in terms of reduced power bills, or even restricted to environmental benefits in terms of less use of fossil fuels emitting toxic gases. The rapid adoption of solar technology is actually benefiting the entire city of Tampa and the nation’s economy at large by creating jobs and generating work opportunities, too. How Solar Solution Companies are Boosting Job Creation: The US solar market is the third largest in the world. The total contribution of the solar industry to the US economy has been estimated at a whopping 15 billion dollars. Earlier this year, a Bloomberg report revealed that US solar companies ramped up their hiring by 22 percent in the year 2014. According to the Solar Foundation, approximately 170,000 people are currently employed across various solar companies in the country. Given its labor-intensive nature, it is hardly surprising that by the end of this year, another 36,000 solar jobs are likely to be added to the sector. Tampa, too, is riding the wave with the city’s solar tech companies bringing hundreds of high paying jobs in the city over the past few years. The local administration is encouraging both home grown and multinational renewable energy companies to set up facilities in the city by assisting land acquisition, permits and related matters.Being labour-intensive, solar energy companies can create more jobs than the traditional power sector. Since the solar manufacturing facilities typically leverage the local workforce, the firms’ investments remain right with the local communities. This in turn is helping to boost the local economy. High-in-demand solar jobs include technicians in the manufacturing facilities, installers, experts in research and development sectors and people in sales and marketing. Why Solar Solutions are a Hit in Tampa: A typical residential 1kWp (kilowatt peak) PV panel can provide 2.5kWh (kilowatt hours) to 5kWh output per day. In other words, it can generate approximately 900kWh to 1800kWh electricity per year. The adoption of solar is helping reduce pressure on the city’s power grid. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s estimation, rooftop solar panel installations, on an average, can enable households to avoid enough CO2 emission, offsetting the polluting effects of two cars running for 28 years. As such they are doing a commendable job in reducing the city’s carbon footprint. The Way Ahead: As we can see, the proliferation of solar power is aiding in economic recovery in the U.S in ways more than one. Looks like, backed by the right policies, solar energy can even steer the nation toward complete energy independence. Keen to capitalize in the consumers’ growing interests in the alternative energy technologies as well as maintain a steady job creation process in this thriving sector, solar solution companies in Tampa are pressing for the development of industry standards and regulations for the renewable energy projects, enhancement in the city’s transmission capacities and expansion of tax benefits and other financial incentives.