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Etna : Innovation & Startups

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Solarize to kick off Allegheny program in Point Breeze

Pittsburgh residents interested in converting to solar power can now turn to a new program for help. On Feb. 8, Solarize Allegheny, a community-supported solar campaign, officially kicked off in Point Breeze with a celebration at Pino’s Restaurant on Feb. 8. That event, along with a workshop taking place at the St. Bede School on Feb. 11, launches a 20-week long project to bring solar energy to the neighborhood.

The program, which is called Solarize Point Breeze, was made possible through a partnership between the Point Breeze Organization and Solarize creator, SmartPower, a national nonprofit dedicated to increasing the adoption of solar technology in participating communities across the country. Solarize Point Breeze also marks the first phase of a plan to expand and double the number of solar installations in Allegheny County over the next two years.

“Solarize campaigns are successful because we tap into the social networks and interest in clean energy that already exists in the community,” says SmartPower Vice President Sharon Pillar. “The Point Breeze Organization is leading the Solarize Point Breeze effort and connecting the campaign to their contacts and in turn, the effect ripples throughout the community. “

As Pillar explains, Solarize Allegheny will provide residents with solar information and resources by engaging them where they live, work and worship. Those interested in adopting solar power are then connected directly to local, pre-screened, qualified solar installers who will offer competitive bids. With the help of the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment  Authority, the program will also find financial assistance, such as zero down or zero interest loans, for qualifying homeowners.

Solarize has already proven successful in other states, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and Arizona, where each community campaign spawned an average of 30 to 40 installations. The most successful two-year program, Solarize Connecticut, covered 52 communities and converted more than 1,900 homeowners, which constitutes one-third of all the residential solar power in the state.

“Solarize is so successful because it taps into a rapidly exploding interest for people to produce their own energy, to save money on their electric bills and to help the environment,” says Pillar.

Besides Point Breeze, Solarize Allegheny will also branch out into Moon Township, South Fayette Township, and the Etna and Millvale boroughs. The next phase will begin in late spring when the program selects and launches in another four or five local communities.

Those interested in learning more about Solarize Allegheny can register for the Solarize Point Breeze launch party or the Solarize Point Breeze workshop through Eventbrite.
 

Looking good Pittsburgh. PittsburghTODAY report highlights the state of the region

PittsburghTODAY released its 2013 Today & Tomorrow report and the news across many sectors is enlightening.
 
With the economic recovery still underway in much of the country, Pittsburgh is the only benchmark region out of 15 that has experienced job growth and housing price appreciation. In addition, the labor force is at an all-time high and young people are returning and staying in the region.
 
Southwestern Pennsylvania continues to be one of the most affordable places for moderate-income families to live. A Brookings Institution study says so too, listing Pittsburgh as one of three cities in the U.S. to have recovered from the deep recession that began in 2007.
 
The region, however, has work to do in several areas, including transportation, the environment and issues pertaining to diversity, particularly in helping African Americans in the region to achieve the same quality of life as whites.
 
Among the highlights:
 
Population: It has been official but bares repeating: the region is attaining and attracting young talent. The region’s population of 20- to 34- year-olds grew by 7% over the last five years and is expected to grow another 8% in 2020. Three decades earlier the region was losing more than 50,000 people than it was attracting, mostly young adults.
 
Jobs: Jobs grew by a non-seasonably adjusted 1.7 percent in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) from November 2007 to November 2012. Certainly not robust, but it was better than any of the Pittsburgh TODAY benchmark regions. Pittsburgh was the only region to post job growth over that period.
 
Tourism: Visitors to Southwestern Pennsylvania pumped $8.1 billion into the local economy in lodging, recreation, retail, food and beverage, transportation and other spending during 2011,the latest year the full data was reported. This is a 9.6% increase over 2010.

Housing: Pittsburgh was the only region in which the 5-year housing prices rose from 2007-2012.
 
Environment: While fine particle pollution is slowly decreasing, and met federal air quality standards for the first time in 2011 since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, smog and sewage spills and the health of our rivers remains an issue.
 
Fracking: Across the region, a survey shows that far more residents are convinced of the economic potential of the Marcellus Shale gas industry than are against drilling for it. More than 70% of those surveyed believe that gas drilling is boosting the local economy.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: PittsburghTODAY

Sprout Fund supports 20 new biodiversity projects with $190,000; PLSG on the move

Good news for the region's biodiversity and life sciences industry.

PLSG received $500,000 in funding that will help to establish a life sciences campus on the South Side at the River Park Commons Business Center.

The funding comes from a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant from the state. The new campus will provide space for four to six wet-labs in addition to the existing 9,000 square feet of life sciences labs. PLSG will also move its office to the campus.

"The demand for this campus is significant as an increasing number of new biotechnology companies are being launched throughout the nation, and geographic clusters to house these new, start-up companies are highly competitive," said John W. Manzetti, President and CEO.

In other news, 20 biodiversity projects received $190,000 this week as part of a new initiative to support the stewardship of Southwestern Pennsylvania's natural resources.

The Sprout Fund and The Pittsburgh Foundation hope to jumpstart community-based biodiversity projects in the region through the Spring Program. The funded projects were selected from among 75 applications, says Dustin Stiver of The Sprout Fund.

"These projects offer an exciting array of innovative solutions to the many environmental challenges we face," says Stiver. "With diverse objectives and creative approaches, they give promise that the biodiversity of our resource-rich region can be preserved and enhanced for generations to come."

Six biodiversity projects received $20,000 awards including:

BioShelter and Food Systems Center at the Garfield Community Farm, where a permanent bioshelter will extend the farm's growing season and offer educational opportunities to the nearby elementary school;

Green Roofs for Bus Shelters in East Liberty, introducing flora and fauna into the urban environment through a living green roof on Penn Avenue;

Heritage Seed Bank and Nursery for seed banks and educational opportunities in the preservation of native heritage or heirloom edible plants;

Native Appalachian Garden, part of Pittsburgh Botanical Garden, cultivating woodland species of the region;

And Take a Hike: Backyard Biodiversity for a traveling presentation that will lead elementary school children on an exploration of the Earth's biomes at the Carnegie Science Center.

The other 14 recipients receiving $5,000 awards are include outdoor classrooms for children, ecological gardens, artificial chimney habitats for neotropical migrant birds, rain gardens in schoolyards with the help of Nine Mile Run Watershed Assoc. and native plant restoration projects.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: PLSG, Dustin Stiver, The Sprout Fund

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