Viewing blog posts written by Jack Stewart

Why Not California #8: More solar companies producing elsewhere to sell to California

Posted by Jack Stewart, on March 3, 2009

It looks like Tennessee just attracted a $1 billion solar manufacturing facility and 500 accompanying jobs from a German solar firm, Wacker Chemie, and an Associated Press story hints that the Volunteer state put up a $50 million incentive package to recruit the high-wage company.  This news adds to a previously announced $1.2 billion investment from another solar firm, Hemlock Semiconductor, looking to produce solar products in Clarksville, Tennessee.

Why is it that little old unsophisticated Tennessee can attract $2.2 billion in solar power investments and the home of solar and other green power mandates can sit and watch its unemployment numbers skyrocket to the country's third worst rate - 10.1 percent - and leave behind an economy-altering number of manufacturing jobs?  Didn't Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Assembly Speaker Nunez promise that California's global warming mandate would create tens of thousands of new green jobs in the Golden State?  And didn't the California Air Resources Board in its economic analysis of AB 32 say that "implementing the recommended measures will have an overall positive impact on economic growth in California"?  Peer reviews shot many holes in the analysis and disputed AB 32's "riskless free-lunch" and now we've seen states such as Tennessee, Oregon and Nevada begin to attract these very high-wage manufacturing jobs and create hundreds of green careers for their working families.

Could one of the main answers be that business costs are so high in California that we will never see significant green investments; that workers in other states will be the chief beneficiaries of California's environmental mandates and that California's brightest and best are fleeing to states that put a high priority on economic growth?  The latest cost of doing business survey by the Milken Institute finds that operating costs for California manufacturers are 38 percent higher than for their competitors in Tennessee.  Is it any wonder that investments in industries that create high-wage jobs routinely bypass California?

Just look at California's record of job destruction over the past eight years.  Since January, 2001 California has eliminated 730,000 private sector jobs with an average salary of $69,000.  During that same period, California created 763,000 new private sector jobs that average only $43,200 per year.   It's time to wake up and take a whiff of the smelling salts.  This isn't working.

While we may want to gloss over theses disadvantages, bury our heads in the sand and believe that new business will come to California because of our sunny skies, beautiful scenery and a green commitment; the fact is that unless the Governor and Legislature deem improving the business climate to be as important as fixing the state budget and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they should stop fantasizing about California leading the nation in new technology jobs and send Tennessee Governor Bredesen our congratulations and best wishes.

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Why Not California #7: California-based company banking on Las Vegas solar manufacturing

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Feb. 25, 2009

Read this Las Vegas Sun article on why a California-based company (and CMTA member), Ausra, is changing its core mission to manufacturing solar supplies (as opposed to building solar generation facilities) and producing those supplies in a neighboring state.

Here's the abbreviated version:
  1. Ausra abandoning most of its large solar facility projects in the west and now manufacturing solar equipment in existing Las Vegas facility to supply medium sized operations in California and the region.
  2. Company will supply limited new renewable supply for utilities struggling to meet California's 20-soon-to-be-33-percent renewable standard
  3. Company's only viable option is manufacturing in a cost competitive state and supplying into California's smaller energy markets
  4. Lack of funding for -- and expensive nature of -- big solar projects.
  5. "Not in my back yard" problem for new big solar sites.
  6. California's high costs put their high wage manufacturing facility in Las Vegas in the first place
Solar power is one way to reduce our coal fired energy consumption and it likely will play an increasing role in California's aggressive hunt for a growing renewable power supply.  Hopefully research will innovate cheaper ways to produce and transmit photovoltaic power so consumers and businesses in California won't have to pay largely increased costs.  The flip side of the solar movement was the almost-guaranteed new manufacturing jobs as an additional benefit.  Remember, each megawatt of solar power generated creates 20 manufacturing jobs per year, but we've already seen three solar manufacturers pop up in Oregon and one here in California, Opti-Solar, recently layed off 105 of its employees.

As high operational costs persist, venture capital dries up and unrealistic environmental goals prevail, Californians will reap few of the purported economic and environmental benefits we've heard so much about in the renewable power arena.   Just ask Ausra in Nevada, Opti-Solar in California or 3 Solar manufacturers in Oregon.

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