LET THE SUN SET ON SOLAR FANTASY
December 4, 2009
"Solar power is a key component of our clean energy future," said Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick this summer, announcing a plan to install large-scale solar photovoltaic power installations throughout the commonwealth. Just a few weeks later, the governor helped cut the ribbon at the opening of Evergreen Solar's new plant in Devens, built with $58 million in state funds.
But half a year later the forecast for solar's future -- not to mention the governor's other green initiatives -- is looking cloudy with an increasing chance of failure, says Max Schultz, a Senior Fellow with the Manhattan Institute:
- Earlier this month, Evergreen Solar shocked everyone by announcing it is cutting up to half of the 800 jobs at the Devens plant and shipping them to China.
- Solar panel materials will still be manufactured in Massachusetts (at least for now), but they will be assembled in a locale with much cheaper costs.
- Boston Power Inc. cancelled plans to build a 600-job factory in Auburn. It had failed to win a $100 million grant from the United States Department of Energy to develop advanced battery technology.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 109,000 more are out of work than at the same point a year ago and the state's unemployment rate is 8.9 percent.
Instead of touting a green energy future, Beacon Hill's mandarins should recognize that their emphasis on renewable energy technology and production will only hurt the Massachusetts economy further, says Schultz.
Solar power is hardly economical in the sun-drenched Mojave Desert, so what makes the governor think it makes sense in the Northeast? Evergreen's sales tripled over last year but its losses tripled as well due in part to sky-high Massachusetts energy costs. There's nothing sustainable about a green company in the red.
If favored manufacturers that receive gobs of government cash cannot survive in this high-cost environment, what are the chances for the run-of-the-mill company without the high-level contacts on Beacon Hill, says Schultz?
Max Schultz, "Let the Sun Set on Solar Fantasy," Boston Herald, November 30, 2009.
Browse more articles on Environment Issues