Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] California may be leading the nation in solar energy initiatives but the state of Pennsylvania is rapidly becoming a front-runner in the U.S. renewable energy market — specifically in the production, distribution and use of biofuels. With an annual production capacity of more than 60 million gallons expected to be online by the end of 2007, Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell recently announced the state will invest an additional $3 million in Alternative Fuel Incentive Grants (AFIG).The grants leverage over $40 million in private funds for the production of approximately 64 million gallons of biodiesel annually, as well as for the installation of storage tanks that are needed to distribute and sell the biofuel. “Pennsylvania has aggressively pursued a leadership role in advancing the technology and deployment of alternative fuels in order to build a dynamic new commercial sector that diversifies our energy supplies and puts people to work,” said Governor Rendell. “These strategic investments will move us further down the road to true energy security for the people and businesses of Pennsylvania.” Since its inception in 1992, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has awarded almost $32 million through AFIG for hundreds of projects across the state. Two years ago, Governor Rendell signed an expansion of the state’s AFIG program into law, enabling the DEP to increase funding for renewable energy projects in the commonwealth. Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty announced the $3 million investment of AFIG funds during an event last week at Heinz Field in Pittsburg (home of the NFL football team the Pittsburg Steelers), which will provide much of the waste vegetable oil used to produce biodiesel for the city’s municipal vehicles. The city received a $303,675 grant to cover the incremental cost of almost 1.2 million gallons of biodiesel and to provide biodiesel storage tanks at city refueling sites. “Pittsburgh’s purchase represents a far-reaching combination of environmental protection and economic development,” McGinty said. “By combining the recycling of waste vegetable oil with the local production of cleaning-burning biodiesel that will fuel its fleet, the city is supporting innovative new businesses, reducing waste and lowering emissions of soot and pollutants that form smog. This is high-performance public policy that truly deserves our support.” The grant round also includes $75,000 for Greater Philadelphia Clean Cities’ E85 Corridor project, which previously received $283,380 in federal funding. The project will convert at least 12 additional fueling stations to provide E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, along a 200-mile corridor stretching from central Pennsylvania to the Philadelphia suburbs. The state’s commitment to renewable energy has begun to attract big name companies in the industry. The Spanish wind-energy giant, Gamesa Corp. has established its U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia with manufacturing facilities in subsequent counties. And last month, Governor Rendell announced that Germany-based Conergy AG — one of the world’s largest solar power integration companies — agreed to locate the North American headquarters of its financial subsidiary, voltwerk, and the East Coast operations of its solar engineering and installation subsidiary, SunTechnics, in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, one of the most progressive in the nation, will require 18 percent of all retail energy generated by 2020 comes from clean, renewable and advanced resources. The AFIG also supports the Governor’s “PennSecurity Fuels Initiative” to produce and use 900 million gallons annually of clean, domestic fuel — an amount equal to what the state is expected to import from the Persian Gulf 10 years from now. In total, the Governor plans to invest $30 million over the next five years to build re-fueling and production infrastructure to support wide distribution of renewable and alternative fuels.