Councilman Joe McNamara will present legislation at next Tuesday's council meeting to allocate $200,000 from the city's 2009 Capital Improvements Fund for design and engineering services to make the site 'shovel ready.'
I've already talked about this plan from a 'role of government' perspective, and my position hasn't changed in that regard.
But today's paper has this quote from McNamara that just defies logic:
"He said the city has done nothing to invest in its solar-panel manufacturing companies, yet Toledo claims to be the solar capital of the world."
On September 21, 2008, Wilkowski said:
"I've said for years that we have to stop being just a cheerleader for solar energy and we have to start doing things to actually move that market forward."
So - just to understand. Toledo and Northwest Ohio are already being recognized as a solar hub. We're developing a reputation as a leader in this industry because of the work that the private sector is doing. Our local companies like First Solar and Xunlight are growing - and the city hasn't done anything????
How can this be? How can an industry grow without government? How can we get this far without the city being involved?
It's simple - the companies in this industry are doing what they need to do in order to grow themselves and they haven't needed the city to step in. I'm certain that if they needed a road for better access or if they requested some tax incentives for equipment or new hires, we'd support them - just as we do any other company that makes a similar request.
It is illogical to think that since we've gotten this far without involvement by city government we must now inject city government into the process. In fact, the proper conclusion would be that if we've gotten this far with Toledo doing 'something,' nothing needs to be done by the city.
And the proof of this is in other solar arrays being built on landfills. Most of those projects are being done by private companies which have purchased/leased/been given the landfills, built the structures and paid for the arrays and connection to the power grid.
If it's being done by the private sector in places like North Carolina and Florida, why does the taxpayer have to foot the bill in Toledo? And who do you think would do a better job of evaluating the return on investment of such a project: the city or a private company? Furthermore, if a private company isn't interested in expending the funds to build a solar field on our landfill, why would Toledo do so?
Here's an alternative idea. If you insist on using the Dura Landfill for a solar field, offer it free (or at a low enough price to make it attractive) to a private solar developer and see how many companies would agree to build a field and keep the profits. That is the way to create jobs - with a private company - not by spending limited public capital improvement dollars to 'enhance our reputation' or to be able to say 'me too!'