When Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter campaigned last year on a theme to diversify the state’s energy economy and make it a leader in alternative energy, it could have been easy to dismiss the goal as too optimistic or far-fetched.
A pair of developments this week, however, shows that the state is making progress in setting itself up as a hub for alternative energy.
The Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels was announced this week as a cooperative effort among the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, the Colorado School of Mines and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
The goal of the new project: to convert the abundant crops grown by Colorado farmers into fuel that can be used to power cars and other machines used in the modern world.
Initial funding for the project is $2 million, but organizers hope that energy companies will pay into the research ventures from the lab and universities.
While the governor certainly shone a spotlight onto the need for renewable energy during his campaign, the work between the universities and the federal lab predates his administration. Last May, the same four entities were grouped into what was called the Northern Colorado Clean Energy Cluster. This week’s announcement shows the state is ready to put money behind the effort.
But while the state has a role in jump-starting a renewable energy effort, it is still private businesses that will lead the way in bringing technological advancements to the marketplace.
That’s why it was heartening this week to see the Danish company Vestas Wind Systems Inc. announce plans to build a plant near Windsor that will produce the turbine blades needed for capturing wind energy.
The 400 jobs the company will add to the regional economy are certainly cause for celebration, but even more so, the move signals that Colorado is serious about alternative energy and friendly to companies that want to do business here.
The energy needs of the future will be met by a combination of products that are not now in the marketplace. The events of this week should encourage Coloradans that this state could be the source of some of those products and help drive the economy for decades to come.