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NewsTalk

Welcome to the archives for NewsTalk, an IBJ blog published from November 2007 through December 2010.

Is alternative energy sustainable in Indiana?

July 7, 2010

Name a big economic development project in Indiana with an alternative energy thrust, and it probably relies heavily on a federal grant or loan.

Abound Solar, the Colorado firm that plans to build solar panels at the former Getrag plant near Tipton, is getting a $400 million federal loan. EnerDel is building a plant in Hancock County to make lithium-ion batteries for hybrid cars. The U.S. Postal Service gave a contract to Bright Automotive in Anderson to develop delivery vehicles that run on electricity.

Carbon Motors won’t build high-tech police cars in Connersville without a federal loan it hopes to land soon. The car’s diesel engine isn’t exotic, but the car’s composite materials put it on the edge of alternative transportation.

The flood of federal incentives is great, says Greg Wathen, president of the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana. But it’s just a start.

“There’s just no way the feds can sustain this over time. And then what happens?” Wathen says. “You have to ask, how sustainable is that?”

Indiana should do more to focus on battery technology, if that’s the niche the state sees itself developing, Wathen says. South Carolina, for example, has built infrastructure around fuel cells, the technology it feels offers the best shot at the future.

What are your thoughts about the wind, solar and battery businesses moving into the state? Can they hang on without federal support? And what are your broader thoughts about government incentives for alternative energy? What do you see as the pros and cons of the government picking winners?

 

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