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FSU & City of Tallahassee sign long-term Renewable Energy contract


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Clean deal

Revival of biomass pact is big


It's more important than it may appear that the Tallahassee City Commission signed two contracts that together move this community forward in the development and use of clean energy alternatives.


Wednesday night, commissioners voted 4-1, with Debbie Lightsey in the minority, to sign one contract with Florida State University and another with Biomass Gas & Electric, which will help reduce the future energy bills of both city residents and the university.


Further, the agreements are expected to lead to the creation of an energy research center at FSU, and to provide jobs and economic benefits locally through construction of a $100 million biomass plant on 21.2 acres adjacent to Innovation Park in southwest Tallahassee. The Norcross, Ga., company's biomass plant is expected to go into operation in about three years.


"I'm very pleased with the agreement," Mayor John Marks said Thursday from Washington, D.C., where he was attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors.


It was just about two years ago, in February 2005, that the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to address climate disruption, went into effect and was soon thereafter endorsed in the U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement, which Mr. Marks joined in signing.


That agreement was, in effect, the pledge of American cities to reduce global-warming pollutants through programs that "provide economic and quality of life benefits such as reduced energy bills, green space preservation, air quality improvements, reduced traffic congestion, improved transportation choices, and economic development and job creation through energy conservation and new energy technologies."


So in addition to being good for our local economic development and a step forward in relationship building with the university, the agreements are keeping a promise with global implications.


Burning plant matter to create energy is one of the relatively new energy technologies that BG&E advances, but Mr. Marks said the city would continue talking to other companies that burn different kinds of waste products (such as garbage) to create energy. "They aren't mutually exclusive," he said, adding that negotiations are still "in the embryonic stages" with another company.


What voters expected

This sort of action is what voters expected when they authorized the city to proceed in negotiations with the Taylor Energy Center, where coal would be burned for energy, but with the important caveat that it also vigorously pursue alternatives to coal-burning, including "green" energy and demand-side incentives.


These contracts, which City Commissioner Allan Katz was named by the commission to pursue last August, fit the bill neatly - and could even minimize the need for buying extra coal-based energy on down the road.


Certainly the university's plan to start an International Center for Alternative Energy Research linked to the plant - and with a probable $2 million gift from BG&E with state matching money potential - would extend the reach of this action in ways that are neither known nor fully imagined.


It's good to see that the city and FSU have worked out their disagreements of earlier this month when the deal was close to kaput.


Now we have a progressive, innovative, signed and sealed example of, as the adage goes, thinking globally and acting locally. BG&E is coming here, and city-university relations, which are so important to the well-being of both, were made a little smoother in the bargain.




This closes a big issue in the area's move towards renewable energy. the City of Tallahassee already offers green energy, as it is called, from solar and hydroelectric sources locally along with national sources. This deal is big for FSU in terms of the savings in the energy bill and the research impact for the school. The plant will be built at Innovation Park, which FSU & FAMU share to house the College of Engineering.


Florida Power & Light offers Sunshine Energy to all home customers who want to buy clean energy at a cost of around $10/month: http://www.fpl.com/environment/conservatio...ve_energy.shtml

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