Seminar to focus on solar arrays
Statewide event to be held in Toledo on March 27
BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Promoters of an upcoming solar power seminar in Toledo say the industry still has immense potential in northwest Ohio, though growth has admittedly stalled since the state legislature rolled back renewable energy mandates.
Between that and a number of high-profile companies that have failed, there’s a perception that solar is nothing but a pipe dream.
Bill Spratley vehemently disagrees with that.
“I think it’s important to show people that even though Toledo may be feeling a little ravaged, there’s nowhere else in the state that has what you have there,” he said.
Mr. Spratley is executive director of Green Energy Ohio, a Columbus nonprofit that promotes renewable power.
The group is organizing a statewide solar conference on March 27 in Toledo that will focus on large-scale solar arrays.
Green Energy Ohio is bringing in experts to speak about financing, siting, and policy issues.
The conference will also focus on so-called community solar — large neighborhood arrays that multiple homeowners collectively own and tap into.
One of the sponsors is the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, which has helped arrange financing for a number of area solar projects.
Kevin Moyer, the port’s executive director of energy programs, said solar has been important to the Toledo area, and he thinks that it can still be attractive to the right company that has a long-term view.
“I think having a conference like that here locally that’s dedicated to solar just continues to emphasize the opportunity that is for Toledo and it’ll be a good forum for people to network and see what the latest is within solar,” Mr. Moyer said.
Ahead of the conference, Green Energy Ohio put together a list of the 25 largest solar installations in the state. More than half of those sites are in northwest Ohio, with four in the immediate Toledo area.
That, along with the University of Toledo, makes the city a natural place to convene, Mr. Spratley said.
“You have a huge educational resource, and you have the infrastructure and suppliers,” he said.
Jay Troger, the chief executive officer of Nextronex Inc. in Holland and a panelist for the event, said there’s no doubt that in the long run Ohio and the rest of the United States will use a lot of solar power. Costs are dropping and technology is improving. But in the short term, he doesn’t see many big projects like the ones of the last few years.
“Right now if you’re trying to develop a solar project, Ohio is one of the last places you would go because of the uncertainty created by the legislature,” he said.
That’s a fact that Mr. Troger finds somewhat ironic given Ohio’s stature within the industry.
According to the Solar Foundation, Ohio added 500 solar industry jobs last year to reach 4,300, good for 10th in the country. Ohio had been eighth the year before. Mr. Troger said Ohio is second only to California in the number of solar industry manufacturers. His company is one of them, making power inverters for the industry.
He hopes that the conference can serve to excite potential customers, developers, and financiers.
And Mr. Troger isn’t worried that so many companies have failed.
“This is like we’re in 1905 in the auto industry. People are going to buy cars and the auto industry is going to do well. There are some car companies that became Ford, GM, and Chrysler, and lots of car companies that didn’t make it. That’s what’s happening in solar manufacturing.
“Solar power is going to do well, but there are going to be winning companies and losing companies,” he said.
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