Green Tech Jobs – Moving to China?

Blog, Climate, Les Routledge

Aided by at least $43 million in assistance from the government of Massachusetts and an innovative solar energytechnology, Evergreen Solar emerged in the last three years as the third-largest maker of solar panels in the United States.

But now the company is closing its main American factory, laying off the 800 workers by the end of March and shifting production to a joint venture with a Chinese company in central China. Evergreen cited the much higher government support available in China.

I guess governments in Canada and the USA could counter this move by requiring projects receiving government support to be supplied by domestic suppliers as Ontario does under its Feed in Tariff program.  The problem with that approach is that China is on the road to being the largest market for renewable energy systems, so manufacturers will be inclined to locate there to access their domestic market.

From a consumer’s point of view, I wonder if the news of shift to producing in China is a bad thing?  As noted in the article, Chinese factors are able to supply panels at $1 per watt compared to $2 per watt for those produced in the USA.  On my farm, I use solar panels to power electric fencers and remote livestock watering systems.  In the future, I hope to use them to provide lighting for my livestock at night to ward off predators in remote pastures.  For me, the falling cost due to a shift of production to China appears to be a good thing.

Hopefully the USA (and Canada) avoids following the path of the ethanol industry where imports of low cost ethanol from Brazil are taxed heavily.  If consuming ethanol is better than consuming petroleum products (admittedly a controversial assertion), why not import it from Brazil instead of subsidizing its production in the United States?