sunflowers used 6789ef447adf6da4Renewal Energy Systems Americas Inc. of Broomfield, Colorado is a major industrial energy company with solar, transmission, wind and energy storage projects across the US and the world from Australia to Turkey, from Finland to Chile. 

And across the globe many if not most of those projects are powered not by the gusts of wind, the bright sun or new efficient technology but by taxpayers subsidizing their projects and utility customers forced by governments to pay above market rates for the power they produce.

RES is a private company, so private indeed that, they wouldn’t respond to Connecticut’s largest newspaper about how they were replacing hundreds of acres of scarce and valuable Connecticut farmland with solar panels.

Let’s be clear this isn’t about the “marketplace”, none of these projects would be possible without Connecticut’s high solar production subsidies and above market power purchases forced on consumers.

We might add because we know you will, the cost of electricity in Connecticut is roughly double that of Florida or North Carolina in part because of these costs.

Steve Reviczky Connecticut’s Agriculture Commissioner was reachable and he told the Hartford Courant of replacing farm land with solar panels “it’s the greatest threat to agriculture and the land available for farming today.”

Connecticut and cities and towns and even private citizens have spent millions to protect open space and farmland in the past two decades.  Now so called environmentalists want to clear hill tops and farmland for boutique “alternative energy” projects with virtually no real positive impact on carbon dioxide or the environment. What the projects do offer at the expense of local communities is plenty of impact on the bottom line of a handful of highly placed development companies and investors – that reap benefits from government handouts and regulations. 

Unfortunately it’s not only major industrial companies that see a bright future in fouling the natural environment in the pursuit of “saving” it through subsidies and for green headlines. 

The Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative partnered up with Elon Musk’s Solar City to replace farmland in use for more than two hundred years with solar panels that will likely be technically obsolete in a five years  and in the process helping to undo a decades long policy to save Connecticut farmland. 

Of course there are sensible and intelligent options to replacing farmland and open space with wrongheaded projects promoted by energy lobbyists, naïve, even fraudulent environmentalists.

In Woodbridge at the Jewish Community Center hundreds of solar panels do double duty protecting visitors on rainy days as they form a solar carport sitting high atop the parking lot. 

The nation’s largest retailer Walmart set a goal of nearly 7 billion kilowatts of renewable energy much of it generated from solar panels on the massive flat roofs of their stores. 

Working with the solar development company Greenskies based in Middletown, Target [stores] has set a goal to build 500 solar sites on their rooftops.

Solar projects on parking lots, rooftops – good, replacing farmland – bad.

It should be that simple, last time we looked there were a hell of a lot of huge parking lots, and flat roofs in Connecticut.

In fact it was Connecticut’s large inventory of flat roofs [and subsidies] not its six hours of good sunshine a day that was the initial draw of solar developers.

More to the point among the most powerful new consumer and environmental trends today, one driven not but by subsidy but by the marketplace is expanding local food production and consumption.

Interest for locally grown and produced foods from consumers is driving a revolution in Connecticut and across the country. 

The economic opportunity in local food production, packaging and processing in Connecticut is growing with each season. This new trend offers an avenue for thousands of agriculture and food manufacturing jobs that don’t require advanced education. For once Connecticut’s access to the Boston and New York markets actually matters and is a true strategic advantage.

Governor Dannell Malloy’s administration should be rightly proud of their efforts to support Connecticut agriculture and food production and it is paying off with quality food, more jobs  and economically stronger suburban and rural communities – and the overall national trend is just beginning.

For more than two decades this publishing company has supported sensible programs to protect the environment in Connecticut.  But environmental stewardship starts with common sense and above all else a commitment to the natural environment.

We understand farmers want control of their own land and industrial energy companies that cite “alternate energy” projects don’t have a requirement to be good environmental stewards that said  – then take your hands out
of our pockets.

There are many good alternatives for the placing of solar panels in Connecticut – subsidizing the destruction of farmland and open space must be stopped immediately.   BNH

Everyone from the bodega owner to the retired schoolteacher is happy to blame “Connecticut” for the loss of GE headquarters. Who or what in Connecticut is a different matter.

Dare we pose the issue differently– we may lose some friends when we say the story is much more about that corporation, Connecticut culture, Connecticut politicians than it is about costs and taxes in Connecticut.

To be certain, top corporate leaders in Connecticut and elsewhere don’t like Connecticut’s business climate, and the cost to do business here. We know this because they say so and numerous surveys underscore it – the narrative is set.

Connecticut is an expensive place but that doesn’t really matter much to a corporate headquarters like GE had in Fairfield.

New York and Boston are far more expensive places to do business than even Fairfield County. Rents, employment costs, and taxes are all higher in most of the alternate places that GE looked for new headquarters.

So what then?

ATTITUDE: First and foremost, many in Connecticut demonize business in a way that Massachusetts and New York, for example, simply do not. 

We invite Democratic politicians and members of the press to find in Massachusetts the shrill negative comments about any major company that are regular faire on the public air waves [especially NPR] or on the pages of the Hartford Courant from politicians, media, and the public alike.
Search back and you will find in Connecticut broadside attacks on Bayer, Pfizer, GE, United Technologies from leading legislators, even from those that represent districts where the employees live.

While the political Left [search Slate magazine] is calling for taxing Harvard [Yale and other non-profits], we’re not hearing the Massachusetts President of the Senate calling for it as Connecticut’s Martin Looney has done. 

The attacks against Yale New Haven Health System come from both sides of the aisle and we don’t see a similar example at our neighbors in New York, Rhode Island or Massachusetts. Are their hospital CEOs working for the minimum wage?

CULTURE: We would love the added opportunity to simply blame Governor Dannell Malloy [he’s become the whipping boy] and the rest of the Democrats, but GE is moving because the “land of steady habits” is not providing the culture that large corporations are now seeking. Trendy trend or real movement, we’ll have to see. 

McDonalds is moving from its suburban headquarters that it has occupied for 45 years to Downtown Chicago, Weyerhaeuser is moving from suburban Seattle to the city center, and that city’s $15 minimum wage is apparently no bar for the corporate headquarters.

As huge global corporations get larger and more bureaucratic, it’s becoming nearly impossible for them to be creative and innovative, so the consultants propose “surround yourself with young innovative people, attract your best talent to one spot,” yada, yada, yada.

By the time anyone knows whether this really works, there will be a new set of relocation plans to a Desert Island Oasis.

While no one is still talking about Red Sox Nation anymore, walking around Boston, the excitement of youth and creativity is everywhere, even a Yankees fan has to admit it is a city for the 21st-century.

Connecticut has a history of innovation, but the government slogan “Still Revolutionary” has not caught on and innovations here do come, but they are slow and hard won.

Then There Is GE: At 60, Jeff Immelt, CEO, still has to prove that his selection in 2000 wasn’t a mistake, he has only five years left to do it.

Immelt’s predecessor [neutron] Jack Welch was a mixture of old school and visionary thinker and he turned around not only GE, but in many ways the entire American Industrial Complex. But in 2000, at 65, he still had to go.

Welch made bets in media, finance and plastics and GE regained its bearing as one of the world’s most valuable and profitable companies.

Immelt, a Midwesterner who came east to Dartmouth College and then Harvard for his MBA – he has GE in his DNA, his dad managed what is now GE Aviation.

He beat out Rhode Island born Jim McNerney Jr [Yale ’71], also a GE insider, for the job.  For the McNerney choice, age was a factor, but when he retired last year as CEO of Boeing it was a more successful company than ever.

The financial crisis tarred GE Capital – Welch’s star achievement. The Internet knocked the wind from NBC, so Immelt is returning GE to its industrial roots, and today innovation is the only way to win that game.

GE’s value has languished under Immelt and only recently returning to 60% of its 2000 level.  Something had to change. BNH