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States scramble to get piece of renewable energy gold rush

GOLDEN, Colo. — Dreams of renewable energy riches have set off a scramble not seen since miners rushed into these surrounding hills in search of shiny nuggets.

"This is like a land rush with a whole bunch of people running side by side," said David Christensen, one of the gurus of new electricity technology at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the Colorado foothills.

The winners, he said, will find "huge pots of gold at the end."

Kansas and Missouri leaders are joining many other states scurrying to stake claims in the energy gold rush.

President Barack Obama is encouraging this renewed interest in renewable energy by pumping more than $60 billion in federal investment toward stimulating the economy, creating jobs and advancing the nation's ability to generate energy from wind, sun and plants.

By making substantial investments of their own in renewable energy research and commercialization, various states aim to emerge as leading hubs able to attract federal backing and increasing attention from companies considering expansion sites.

Although states such as Colorado, Minnesota and Iowa may have an early edge as renewable energy leaders, Kansas and Missouri have projects, expertise and other assets that could make them strong contenders.

One of the area's key allies is Kansas City's Midwest Research Institute, a nationally prominent expert on renewable energy.

The nonprofit institute, known widely as MRI, is a co-manager of the Department of Energy's Colorado laboratory in the Denver suburb of Golden. Researchers in the sprawling complex are working with companies to make solar, bioenergy and other technology more efficient and cheaper to produce.


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