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Megasite should be a renewable energy magnet
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While Mitsubishi Power Systems will take up a small portion of the Pooler Megasite, the remainder of the 1500-acre parcel at I-16 and I-95 has the potential to be further transformed into a mixed–use commercial/industrial campus to attract a variety of renewable energy companies. Along with Mitsubishi, those firms could form the core of a vibrant community that would bring to the region more companies that share the energy goals of the 21st Century.

The technologies involved include: solar, hydrogen, fuel cells, geothermal, micro hydro, urban wind, offshore wind, biofuels, biomass, and energy storage. These companies would also require professional support services.

The Megasite could be planned to become as energy self–sustaining as possible. For example: buildings would be constructed to meet LEED standards, geothermal installations would reduce demand, solar modules would be placed on rooftops and parking lot canopies, water conservation would include pervious paving, rainwater retention, and xeriscape plantings.

In addition to manufacturing and distribution facilities there would be office/warehouse buildings for installers of roof modules, hot water modules and geothermal systems; specialty plumbers and electricians, etc. Incorporating a stocked fishpond, community garden, fitness trail, jogging path, picnic facilities, can strengthen the sense of community.

The timing is right to take advantage of the unfolding energy revolution in the private sector and forthcoming government policies and funding.

The term “energy revolution” brings with it a certain skepticism. Yes, it may well be true that the amount of energy produced by the sun in one hour would provide all the energy the world needs for a year. Yet critics immediately point to the fact that the oceans, or jungles, or mountains cover most of the surface of the earth, and many latitudes receive less than six hours of sun daily.

Besides, the sun doesn’t shine at night or on cloudy days and the wind blows intermittently and frequently unpredictably.
It is true that all the so–called “alternate energy” solutions (solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, biofuels, hydro, tidal, ocean currents) have their own set of limitations. It is precisely these limitations that, until now, have prevented the “gee whiz” breakthrough that demonstrates, once and for all, that renewable energy is real, and is the future of energy production.

But one person’s idea of limitations is another’s definition of challenges... challenges that can, and must, be overcome. In the next three to five years the work of tens of thousands around the globe in research labs at universities, government facilities, corporations, and even the proverbial garage will have overcome these challenges. Products and processes are already moving out of the lab into testing and to production.

This availability of multiple sources of cleaner energy will also bring with it a new appreciation of the concept of distributed energy production — produce energy close to where it is needed. This is not a new concept, but it has been overwhelmed by the construction of large, centralized utilities, requiring distribution by long transmission lines, pipelines, railways and long–haul trucks.

Now it will be possible for whole communities to have their electricity supplied by regional solar and/or wind farms, for individual homeowners to make their own hydrogen to fuel their cars. Algae will be harvested locally for oil while providing animal feed or fueling biomass generators. Commercial buildings and many homes will have their own fuel cells to generate electricity and provide heat. Solar canopies will start sprouting up on parking lots.

Costs will start coming down as production moves from phase one of economies of scale — increasing the productivity of individual manufacturing facilities — to phase two, where entire factories can be duplicated anywhere.

(Phase 2 has just come to Georgia, with the announcement that German firm MAGE SOLAR GMBH will be constructing a manufacturing campus in Dublin for solar modules.)

The next three to five years will prove that alternate energy production is a commercially viable reality and that clean, inexpensive power is no longer in the realm of fiction.