Day Institute Discusses Job Growth in Renewable Energy Industry
“South Florida has the potential to become a renewable energy belt,” said Dan Murphy, director, Highlands County Economic Development Commission, during the “Green Revolution, Green Jobs, Green Service Learning” day institute on Nov. 5. “It would sate the dire need for investment, job creation, and economic development. There is plentiful land, many potential third-party investors, a highly adaptive workforce, and an evolving transmission grid that makes it the ideal location.”
Murphy joined Dr. Kevin Cooper, Indian River State College Banner Center for Energy, and Dr. John Alleyne, Highlands County, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Services (UF/IFAS) Agricultural Extension, for the South Florida Community College Honors Program’s day institute. The program provided insight on renewable energy and the impact it will have on local jobs.
Renewable energy sources include solar power, wind power, biomass, and biofuel. The driving factors to utilize these energy sources are avoiding high fossil fuel costs or fuel price hedging, avoiding the cost of building of new generation plants, avoiding carbon dioxide and green house gas emissions, avoiding the cost of new transmission and distribution infrastructure, and avoiding heavy water usage. Highlands County will enter the industry when it breaks ground on two new biofuel plants next year, Vercipia and Highlands Envirofuels, which are expected to bring at least 200 field jobs and 40 operating jobs to the area.
Dr Alleyne, who has been leading the research on local biofuel crops, stated the industry will not only create new jobs, but it will also be profitable to citrus farmers who are currently struggling because of citrus disease. “Many biofuel crops can be grown on land that is not habitable for food crops, has sandy soil, is vacant, or is inhabited by invasive species. These crops will give struggling citrus farmers the opportunity to use their land and once again create a profit.”
“It is forecasted that by 2030 there will be more than 16 million green jobs, and the industry will create $1,966 billion in revenue,” Dr. Cooper said. “Many of these jobs are returning to the United States from countries such as Germany that are currently focused on renewable energy sources.” Job areas that are currently being focused on are the biomass/biofuel industry, construction and energy management, rating, auditing, and weatherization of homes to increase energy efficiency, pollution prevention and control, battery technology research to increase the life of electric car batteries, and smart grid technology. “A smart grid is a monitor installed in a house that reports all energy use in real time. This new technology not only allows homeowners to monitor their energy efficiency and save money, but also has the potential to create 10,000 positions in the next three to 10 years.”
“We are facing a huge growth in the future,” Murphy said. “Highlands County’s population is expected to reach 130-210 thousand people by the year 2060. By increasing our participation in the renewable energy industry and its resources, we are not planning for our own futures, but for the future of our grandchildren.”
The Day Institute was sponsored by Florida Campus Compact, a membership organization of over 50 college and university presidents committed to helping students develop the values and skills of active citizenship through participation in public and community service, and was funded by a grant from Learn and Serve America and the Corporation for National and Community Service STEM Higher Education FY 10 initiative.