By Sarah Spicer
A former governor of Tennessee sees Kansas as a prime investment in solar power because of the state’s high sun potential and current dependence on fossil fuels.
Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen founded Clearloop, a business-to-businesses company that helps companies fund solar panels or build facilities with solar. Currently, they’re focusing on “cleaning” states with dirty electric grids that have high solar potential to have a more significant impact on climate change.
“If you put solar into New England, for example, it doesn’t do much good at all because New England has a very low fossil fuel footprint,” Bredesen said. “On the other hand, there are parts of the country that use a lot of fossil fuel generation, and so it really has a big impact if you replace fossil fuels with solar. You’re making a bigger impact on greenhouse gas.”
In a story familiar to most Kansans, Tennessee’s rural communities were struggling economically and businesses overlooked the region in favor of Nashville and offshore operations.
This was why Bredesen founded Clearloop, a company that would work to bring solar energy operations to the rural “forgotten” areas of his state. Now he wants to branch out.
“I started out thinking of it as kind of a boutique industry where there were a few people who wanted to pay a lot of money for solar,” Bredesen said. “I really came to see that there are just huge changes taking place in the way power was produced in the country that presented opportunities for people to find ways to contribute to that.”
Renewable energy has grown significantly over the past two decades and accounted for 18% of U.S. generated electricity last year. Still, less than 2% of it was from solar, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Bresden’s company, Clearloop, along with Downstream Strategies and WattTime, released a white paper on their research in September, which emphasizes supporting renewable energy in states where it will be able to displace fossil fuels.
The study looked at all 50 states and ranked each state based on its solar potential and regions with “dirty grids,” or grids with carbon-intense production. Based on this ranking, Kansas was the fourth-best state to invest in new solar.
“It’s a new way of looking at it and you see places like Kansas pop up on the map,” Bredesen said. “While it’s not the most sun and it’s not the dirtiest grid in the country, it does use a lot of fossil fuels and get a lot of sun. The combination of those two means you get more bang for your buck in reducing greenhouse gases.”
While Bredesen hasn’t partnered with any Kansas companies yet, the state is high on his list.
The three states above Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, already produce solar-powered electricity at a higher rate than the national average of 2%. Kansas currently generates 0.01% of its electricity from solar, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
By doing this study, the focus was to earmark states that are best served by bringing solar energy, with the hope to attract clean energy jobs and economic investment in the region.
“You get in an office like the Governor and 95% of what you’re doing is this day-to-day stuff. I think a lot of us would like to be able to do some things that have got long term impacts that are meaningful in the years after you leave office or after you’re gone,” Bredesen said. “If you can do some things to help begin to address global warming and to give other people who want to address it, tools to do it with, that’s a lot better feeling.”
Read the original story in The Wichita Eagle.
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