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Mesa Councilman: Clean Economy Expanding Quickly in AZ

August 4, 2011

MESA, Ariz. - Arizona's "clean" or "green" economy already supports more than 37,000 jobs paying above the state's average wage. That's according to a new report from the Brookings Institution, based in Washington, D.C. Moreover, several major new solar and wind projects will soon give a huge boost to the "clean" economy's impact on Arizona's overall economic health.

Mesa council member Dave Richins says an Arizona plant will start building panels this winter for three 500-megawatt solar plants in California.

"The company manufacturing those 13 million solar panels is First Solar. The panels will be made first in Ohio, because they have capacity now. But when First Solar's plant in Mesa is completed, they'll start manufacturing them here in Arizona."

Also just announced, the Salt River Project plans to buy power from an 85-megawatt wind-generation facility to be built by the Navajo Nation. It is one example of the kinds of clean energy projects that advocates say can be put on public, private and tribal lands in Arizona.

Richins, who is also the Sun Corridor Legacy Program director for the Sonoran Institute, says Arizona's biggest "clean" economy opportunity lies with utility-scale solar plants that can attract the necessary investment.

"Not just the two-megawatt, three-megawatt solar arrays, but 200- and 300-megawatt solar arrays - that's really the sweet spot for the investment community, to be able to generate enough power to make sense financially."

Federal loan guarantees are also critical to bringing more large-scale renewable energy projects to Arizona, he says.

The Brookings study says recycling industries currently produce the most jobs in the state's "clean" economy. One example, Richins says, is a waste management plant he recently toured, northwest of Phoenix.

"The cardboard that came out of that plant is getting shipped back to China to make new boxes for more products that are coming to the United States. That 'circle of life' for a cardboard box was quite fascinating, and that's done here in Arizona."

Brookings estimates the average Arizona "clean" economy job pays nearly $39,000 a year, and the report says the number of such jobs has been growing at more than 3 percent annually.

The report is available at http://bit.ly/p0AUDZ.


Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ