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Top 5
Based on population and size, here’s a list of states with the best chance for alternative-energy job growth by 2018:
1. Wisconsin – 35,133 positions
2. Indiana – 39,221
3. South Carolina – 22,351
4. Ohio – 51,269
5. Connecticut – 15,542
Source: Hoosier Environmental Council

Businessman spreads gospel about green energy


Thom Blake Sr. hopes to enlighten companies about renewable energy.

The president and CEO of Solar Usage Now has organized “Power Up,” a Friday conference that will discuss alternative energy sources, where to find green firms, and how to implement a system that some have a hard time grasping.

Pre-registration is not required at the free event that runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Solar Usage, 7967 S. Wayne St. in Hamilton.

Blake said companies would often like to delve into using alternative forms of energy but don’t know where to begin.

“They just don’t know where to go or who to trust,” said Blake, who has a roster of more than 10 alternative energy firms and experts lined up for the conference. “We’ll have speakers from as far away as Italy” discussing the topic. “There will be an educational meeting and exhibits on display.”

On Monday, Blake said he had at least 200 attendees confirmed. Solar Usage has put on similar seminars with up to 500 people attending, Blake said.

The company is a manufacturer of renewable heating equipment and energy consultant. It makes products that allow homeowners and businesses to heat water and rooms with energy collected from rooftop solar panels as a supplement to natural gas. Last July, Solar Usage moved its operations to Hamilton from Harlan. Blake also is president and CEO of Our Country Home Inc., a Harlan-based store furnishings operation.

Blake believed Solar Usage was vibrant enough to occupy its own space. He declined to reveal annual sales at the company. The businessman spent about $500,000 to relocate Solar Usage into a building that sits on the Steuben-DeKalb county line.

Environmental experts say that is a wise move.

Global investments in renewable energy – including solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and bio-energy – could result in $180 billion a year in savings, according to Greenpeace International.

That is proof that energy efforts are worth investing in, said Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council.

“It’s encouraging that (Solar Usage) is putting this on,” he said. “It reflects a critical mass of people who want to embrace green energy alternatives.”

Kharbanda said despite Indiana holding much promise for renewable energy developments, the state has a “weak set of incentives” for encouraging such projects.

“We should want to embrace green alternatives,” he said.

David Koenig is executive director of Steuben County Economic Development Corp. Koenig said he believes in renewable energy’s future in Indiana.

“Sustainable business practices are good for any business that is looking to lower operating costs,” said Koenig who will kick off the conference and introduce speakers.