Speaking at the 2010 EnergyBiz Leadership Forum,a summit of energy business leaders held last week,Strickland said Ohio is well-positioned to become a global leader in alternative energy technology. As the state moves forward,so will its Appalachian counties,he said.
“The winners of the 21st century energy economy are being chosen today,” Strickland said. “My prediction is that Ohio will one day become the advanced energy state.”
Strickland touted Ohio's manufacturing centers and intellectual capital. He cited successful green-energy businesses,such as Athens-based Sunpower Inc.,as examples of what the state can do in the green-energy sector.
Strickland said the state's advanced-energy industry will keep Ohioans employed in the coming years. In Southeastern Ohio,upcoming state projects will bolster infrastructure and employ local workers,he said.
One possible project,which Strickland said he is discussing with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack,would help build wind farms on land laid bare by strip mining.
“We would use Appalachian workers. We would use Ohio-based products,” Strickland said in an interview after his speech. “It would not require the destruction of virgin lands.”
Building wind farms and other alternative energy facilities would create jobs for Ohioans in construction and manufacturing,Strickland said.
Ohio's unemployment rate rose from 8.6 percent in January 2009 to 10.8 percent in December. The national rate was 10 percent in November and December. It fell to 9.7 percent in January and remained there in February.
About 8,000 parts are needed to construct a single industrial wind turbine,Strickland said. Although green technology is new,the skills needed to build turbine components and power plants remain the same,he said.
“Green power doesn't come from space-age widgets. It comes from the same stuff as automobiles,” Strickland said. “Wind turbines aren't built by folks wearing Birkenstocks and sipping lattes.”
Strickland admitted that Ohio's energy transformation will be long and difficult. The process will be made slower by resistance from businesses that thrive on fossil fuels,including Appalachian Ohio's deeply entrenched coal industry,Strickland said.
The governor said he is not opposed to using coal,but Ohio should still explore new alternative energy sources.
“I think we're going to need all the energy we can produce from all the sources available.” Strickland said. “We need the broadest possible portfolio.”
In 2008,the Ohio legislature passed a law requiring that 25 percent of all power sold to retail customers to be generated by advanced energy sources by 2025. Half of that power must come from renewable sources such as wind or solar.