Attracting green energy manufacturers

Here’s a good article about how several U.S. states are attracting solar energy systems manufacturers. 

It’s easy to  talk about it but you have to figure out what your competitive advantage is and will be and you have to determine what the competitive playing field looks like.

President Obama has announced $70 billion and tax and spending incentives to spur this type of development. 

New Mexico attracted three large solar manufacturing plants:

The state landed Advent Solar Inc. after that company licensed technology from New Mexico’s Sandia National Laboratories in 2003.

Advent opened a manufacturing and research facility in Albuquerque that began production in 2005.

Then the state’s economic development team successfully used $130 million in a variety of tax incentives to recruit Schott Solar from Germany to build a plant near Advent.

In December, the state announced that Signet Solar of California would build a manufacturing plant south of Albuquerque that could qualify for as much as $185 million in tax incentives.

The bottom line is that with the serious competition around North America, New Brunswick needs to figure out if it wants to play or not.  That 350 person plant that is said to be going to Miramichi – hasn’t set up yet. You can bet that a dozen U.S. states read about it and are actively recruiting the firm with serious incentive packages.

That’s what I would do.  When I was directly in the ED biz, I used to look for projects that were rumoured to be coming to a community or said to be close to a decision and these were targets.

31 thoughts on “Attracting green energy manufacturers

  1. Good points, but those are two different things-the firm is going to be manufacturing solar panels, its not a solar power farm. There is little point in any place apart from the prairies to try to compete with large scale solar ‘farms’. There simply isn’t the amount of sunlight. Unfortunately, the public isn’t even aware of the ‘competitive advantage’ for green energy, the best example is the deal with the Alberta wind company that will run the turbines. The province has guaranteed a purchase price for the power they produce, but we don’t know what it is or how long the contract is for.

    The manufacture of solar panels is the same as any other manufacture. For that we know they won’t pay any property tax, but you’d think the media would be doing some followup stories on the specifics of the deal. So we don’t know what kind of concessions are being granted, only the story that for some reason some woodland is part of the deal.

    But without federal assistance, its tough for small provinces to do much, even here in Ontario there has only been a lot of talk about green energy, but little action. When you look at the states you really realize how dysfunctional OUR federal system is when theirs looks at least competent. With an increasingly integrated grid, its pretty tough to compete with jurisdictions that have regional, state AND federal Green initiatives. In Canada regions don’t even have the authority, most provinces are tied to oil, gas or nuclear, and the federal government seems to be hiding until the recession passes.

  2. A couple of points.

    1) There is no such thing as green energy. Basic physics dictates that. There will always be some sort of by product, or impact resulting from the production or capture of energy. So drop the idea that there is some fantasy energy source that costs “nothing”. All that changes is the relative cost that society is willing to pay for energy. At this point, it would seem green house gas is perceived as more costly than say starving Mexicans by diverting food grade corn to biofuels or, as this post suggests, producing solar panels which is energy intensive and produces a certain amount of harmful toxins and disposal issues with used solar panels. Don’t get me wrong, we should be looking at so called greeen energy economic opportunities but let’s not get so infactuated that we forget the realities of energy generation. Conservation and efficiency will have far more long term impact than any generation technology.

    Second point is that there are two economic anagles to jumping on the green energy band wagon. A) prodiucing it for consumption and export and B) producing and selling the technology and equipment to produce it.

  3. oops, did not finish my point above. New Brunswick has certain limitations with some green energy technologies (scale and environment for example). However, there could be good economic opportunities in attracting the designers and manufacturers of such equipment which is where I think our efforts should be focused. I rather attract a windmill manufacturer than a windmill farm.

  4. Green energy doesn’t imply ‘no cost’, it means different costs-and ones that are far less than so called ‘non renewables’ -although basic physics also says that EVERYTHING is ‘renewable’ in some form or another-but a lot of basic physics has turned out to be ridiculously wrong. I can ‘build’ a windmill pretty easily with virtually no negative impacts. While its true that carbon monoxide is produced during the smelting of silicone, it is nowhere near that produced by fossil fuels, and the technology is advancing incredibly fast-and unlike fossil fuels they won’t . Silicone is the second most common element in the world, so the mining isn’t particularly difficult, and solar cells have incredibly long lifetimes.

    The economic factor is always neglected in media, as mentioned above, its the manufacture of the windmills and solar cells that provide employment. There are still few subsidies in Canada, mostly because the cost of solar and wind is continuously plummeting. Even today it would take less than ten years to pay for an ‘off the grid’ system. In other words, the future is likely one where each building is self sufficient, yet that’s continuous being fought by governments for obvious reasons.

  5. Exactly the point I am making. People forget about the windmill batteries that are manufactured and require disposal and you have surely have seen some of the stories about noise polution and the impact on birds.

    Solar panel manufacture involves arsenic, cadmium and numerous cancer causing chemicals. Just google solar panel toxins for more information.

    My point is these ‘costs’ at this point in time are more acceptable than greenhouse gasses. However, this is not an environmental blog but an economic one and I totally agree we need to focus on the business end of greener energy.

  6. Green, cost efficient energy, will be great, when the technology is discovered. So far its still just very expensive 100 year old technology. Don’t stop looking for oil!

  7. Windmills don’t require batteries, its called ‘net metering’ and you simply hook your ‘green energy’ up to the grid and no batteries are required at all. The only reason this hasn’t caught on is because government regulators clearly don’t WANT it to. Even in ontario the government has set a limit on how much energy the government will buy from small producers, meaning it simply isn’t cost effective to set up a small enterprise selling energy to the government. And the last time I checked I don’t think New Brunswick even had the setup to handle net metering.

    But to call a windmill ‘noise pollution’ is a bit of a stretch. It’s simply ‘noise’ that is typically in rural places where people aren’t used to noise. There is a windmill in downtown Toronto and certainly nobody calls that ‘noise pollution’, you can’t even hear it over the traffic. I’ve been to the facility in PEI on numerous occasions, and even at full capacity there is hardly any noise-and along the coast when you have wind you also have waves, so its pretty hard to distinguish the sound of windmills over the crashing of waves. It’s also pretty easy to locate wind farms away from people-its more pricey, but easy. The impact on birds though has been shown to be absolutely nil. A new building will cause far more bird deaths than a windmill, by that reasoning the business centre in downtown Fredericton shouldn’t be built because tall buildings kill birds.

    Arsenic does not ’cause cancer’, any more than sugar ’causes cancer’. Arsenic causes arsenine poisoning, something very rare. Many forms of arsenic are used in medicines, and the element is common in forestry, mining, and construction. Cadmium is poisonous, however, it should be noted that Cadmium telluride is ‘fairly nasty’ yet is a byproduct of copper and zinc smelting. Guess what, that smelting is not going to stop simply because of a nasty side effect, so the question remains, what do we do with it? A new company in Colorado is setting up a manufacturing facility which will employ 500 people to make cadmium telluride photovoltaics.

    Because its a byproduct this will effectively drop the price of solar cells in HALF. The ‘greener’ choice is of course polysilicon, and if solar were subsidized like fossil fuels then they would be more common and cost effective. But again, SOMETHING has to be done with that cadmium telluride.

    Three years ago the DOE in the US did a study on leaching cadmium from used solar cells and found that this could be easily done using a solution of hydrogen peroxide, a pretty common mixture. This needs more research but it makes it at least fairly obvious that recycling photovoltaics will be no more difficult than any other waste product like computers and electronics (maybe less so).

    Either way it doesn’t even compare with the amounts of heavy metals produced in an oil refinery or coal burning plant. In most cases the manufacture of photovoltaics USE by products, they don’t produce them. It’s true that this will vary amongst the company and the product, but the environmental effects are nowhere NEAR what is caused from fossil fuels. In New Brunswick the toxic effects of the Coleson Cove facility are well established-if not adequately reported. Mercury is at pretty high levels in Grand Lake and other waterways And it should be noted that both arsenic and cadmium are also amongst the heavy metals abundant in oil refining, but nobody seems too concerned about that in St. John.

  8. “President Obama has announced $70 billion and tax and spending incentives to spur this type of development. ”

    That to me is the key part of this post. The US is at the start of a massive turn-around in approach to energy management. Thus the spending on alternate energy sources. What is Canada/NB doing by contrast? The feds seem to be slow off the mark, perhaps because of the Cons fear of offending the oil sands moguls. There are opportunities here for Canada/NB to create manufacturing and research jobs in green energy. How to get them should be the focus of discussion.

  9. Wow Mikel has swollowed the “David Suzuki energy is free just stick up a windmill” fantasy hook, line and sinker.
    If you wade through the hype and the propaganda, yes windmills can help but they create other issues with grid loading, intermitent power (fossil back up needed in most cases) not to mention the thoughts of mowing down forests or altering wetlands, or agriculture lands for wind farms.

    The point is there is no free lunch; energy comes at a price. However, minimizing this price presents wonderful economic opportunities that New Brunswick ought to be aggressively pursuing.

  10. The point is simply that windmills ARE ‘green’ by any measure. It’s obvious the wind doesn’t blow all the time, who believes that? However, much of the hydro power in NB is replenished in the spring when the dams are busiest-obviously you need a mix. However, if you can have a ‘mix’ of wind and solar power that is enough to power a house, then obviously a ‘green grid’ is easily possible. In Vermont the agricultural sector is very politically active, they got together and now much of the natural gas on the ‘gas grid’ comes from the methane from farmers (while in Canada the methane simply adds to the greenhouse gases).

    Actually on a continental grid you COULD simply ‘put up windmills’ simply because the wind is blowing in many places most of the time, however, that’s not going to happen (although many states are getting their green initiatives together).

    In New Brunswick its certainly not an issue of ‘mowing down forests’ for some windmills-just download Google Earth and take a look at New Brunswick, there are MORE than enough clearcuts all over the province. And this is a province where the government refused to enforce its own laws on wetland conservation in Fredericton. Sorry to say, but New Brunswick is about the last place where ‘ecological concerns’ are justifiable reasons to reconsider wind or solar power (if a clearcut is no problem for Irving, why would it be a concern for a wind farm?)

    And I guess nobody caught it, but the program in Colorado to make photovoltaics out of calcium telluride would make a good partnership with the manufacturer in Miramichi. Somebody here was talking about building on provincial strengths, doesn’t there just happen to be a zinc smelter in Bathurst? You certainly can’t find a more convenient situation than that.

  11. Not sure why there is so much back and forth discussion on wind energy here. There are only a few sites in NB where wind strength and duration is sufficient to attract commercial wind farms, so it may not provide large amounts of power for local use or export. Perhaps, as net metering becomes more common, local installations will occur on a just-in-case scenario to take advantage of whatever winds do exist. Cheap turbines to do this already exist, and NB Power does have a net metering program. In any event, its of more interest (to me anyway) to determine how we can tap into the green energy bandwagon to create manufacturing and research jobs.

  12. It’s of interest for the same reason all of this is-its not like ‘we’ have any capability of implementing green technology anyway-manufacturing or otherwise.

    It’s actually not true at all that winds in NB are insufficient. The Grand Manan wind turbine has been very efficient and currently two american companies are in the regulatory process of building much larger wind farms in that area. NB Power has already done wind testing and along the Fundy shore has been ideal, while areas along the Northumberland Strait are also good sites. At Fallsbrook they produce 5500 KW per year, and that is in the river valley, a very poor location.

    The two american companies are setting up 100 acre farms, and to reference the issue mentioned above, one site near St. George will be close to residential neighbourhoods.

    Yet neither of these are ‘community based’, the power will go directly to the states, and there are few jobs, except the initial install, which will go to New Brunswickers (some Grand Mananers actually thought their energy bills would go down). As one article notes, they are not coming to New Brunswick because of ‘green power’, they are coming because of a lax environmental process, few regulations, and as one commentor noted “a compliant population”-and good wind sites. That’s why its important to actually have a government make these Green choices, otherwise few benefits flow to taxpayers.

    As for the Net Metering program, it is still very complicated, and has an even lower ‘cap’ on the amount of energy they will accept from residences (100kW). This means it is still not economically feasible to subscribe to the program. In Ontario they will at least accept 500KW. However, that is still an ‘offset’ program, meaning that the power they accept from you will never let you ‘make money’, only decrease your power bill. Yet virtually every province is in a ‘power bind’, so you’d expect that small green energy sources would be ideal suppliers. They would provide jobs, green energy, and be less reliant on fossil fuels-yet they remain prohibited. But just imagine if you were a small farmer in a windy and sunny location, and you could wipe out your energy costs, and make even more money by selling power to the government. That would be an ideal situation for many landowners, unfortunately, the opportunity doesn’t exist.

  13. And a clearcut is only a clearcut for 5 years!

    “NB is replenished in the spring when the dams are busiest-”

    You mean they store the electricity for when needed? And you mean the dams are busy, letting the water escape to the Ocean, preventing flooding?
    Actually it looks like you got carried away, Orwellian style.

  14. Green! This fits right in here,as green and black are the color of NB potato products. They seem to enjoy traveling, so why don’t they ask, how to grow and market a decent potato?

    With their fields buried under the New Brunswick winter, 10 New Brunswick seed potato exporters and industry people are in Cuba this week for a trade mission.

    Agriculture and Aquaculture Minister Ronald Ouellette will lead the mission from March 8-13.

  15. The point was that 5500KW isn’t tons, but is pretty good for a lousy location (actually, its doubtful they’ll actually get that much). The effectiveness of that depends on the individual house, if a home is heated through wood and/or natural gas, that amount would supply three quarters of a homes energy usage (we use natural gas for heat, and use somewhere around 8500 KW per year), so obviously that’s pretty effective for a location that doesn’t even get much wind (they did wind tests first but decided to set up a wind turbine because its mostly a demo site anyway).

    The point about the dams is that apart from fossil fuels, most sources of energy are seasonal in some way. New Brunswick is ALREADY heavily reliant on ‘seasonal’ sources of energy, the utility stated that the reason they have stayed ‘in the black’ for the past two years is because of high precipitation volumes. Combining that with solar (energy through the summer) and fall/winter (energy from wind) and you have a pretty good mix to get you through the year. Combined with energy conservation measures and the ‘footprint’ is probably so low that another nuclear reactor wouldn’t even be necessary (and is one reason why green sources get so little attention).

    Clearcuts are another matter for debate, but the wind farm for Grand Manan has allotted .5 acres per wind turbine, which means that clearcuts are certainly not needed anywhere. That’s not much bigger than an oversized city building lot. The Manan site is 100 acres, the size of a small farm.

    There is no need to add the snide comments, this is a blog forum where nothing is personal, anybody who disagrees with anything written is free to argue the facts or debate them or ask for clarification. Good manners cost nothing. There are lots of blogs out there where personal attacks are the order of the day, this isn’t one of them.

  16. You are even ignorant enough to think you can take over blogs? One just gets tired of someone making points that have no points and expecting anyone to continue to listen to such,Orwellian, nonsense. You think you have made an art of talking around a topic as if you knew something about it, bouncing from one contradiction to another. If I have to take that, than you can take the snide remarks. Your windmill, nor my snide remarks, will be of no use nor harm to most!
    Best concentrate on my grammer or spellin!

  17. A friend of mine did his senior thesis on tidal power in the bay of
    Fundy. The tides occur on a regular basis, as opposed to wind, and we have some of the highest tides in the world. A little R&D in the province could make us a leader in North America, all the other companies involved in tidal power are from Europe, I believe.
    One thing about wind energy, and giving back to the grid. I don’t think the grids are set up to take large amounts of energy from individual locations. On a windy day, you could fry the whole system. You need to build a smart-grid, which allows you to do that. Costly, but probably effective in the long run. Tell that to NB Power though.
    Another thing for wind power as well, offshore wind farms produce energy on a more regular basis, and then no one has to see or hear them. Lots of enviromental impact and all that jazz, but at least your not adding more CO2.
    You can continuously debate the pros and cons of green energy, wind farms, and the like, but at this point, there is no debate that we are heating up the planet with our CO2 emmissions. We either invest in the technology now, do some research, improve on the “100 year old technology”, or we keep burning fossil fuels like they’ve done for thousands of years.

  18. There is not one shred of evidence toward what we are doing to the Planet. More like a lobby against the oil companies plus a carbon scam to shift economics, transfer money to different countries. A good study into Maurice Strong philosophy would give a good in-site.
    Not one shred!

  19. Wow, that’s quite a conspiracy theory there. How about the general consensus of the majority of scientists in the world? I don’t know, that seems like a pretty good piece of evidence. So, even if global warming is a scam, at least a trend towards sustainability and good enviromental practices could be a good thing. The oil will run out someday, might as well be prepared ahead of time. Oh, and it’s spelled “insight”.

  20. Thanks for the spelling lesson. I argued with iespell over that. Did you? But I think I would rather espell than Ecircle.

    The Enemy within:

    Controlling Carbon a Bureaucrat’s Dream

    Dr. Tim Ball

    “Global warming alarm has always been a political movement, and opposing it has always been an uphill battle,” Lindzen said. Scientists who endorse global warming are “richly rewarded for doing so,” he said.

    I guess you forgot to check with the opinion of the Scientests around the World? Oh well, you can spell.

    And no snide

  21. Scientists that recieve money from oil companies don’t have much merit in my mind. I’m done here, I’m sure you have lots of other links to show me to dispute it, but I think we’ve gotten off topic.

  22. lol
    Education is such a great thing, but nobody wants to try it. (Khrushchev) I think?

  23. “but is pretty good for a lousy location”

    I doubt that they set up commercial wind turbines in a ‘lousy’ location. These sites are usually carefully selected, which is why there have been relatively few commercial developments in NB. I agree that there is a lot of potential in solar energy, even here in NB. Again, costs are coming down and the future will likely see more and more residences producing significant proportions of their energy needs. As Tristan points out net-metering has its limits. All this however is off-topic. What we should be discussing is how NB can benefit from the movement towards alternate energy development in the US.

    “Dr. Tim Ball”, BTW, is not a climatologist, and is not competent to discuss the science around carbon dioxide / global warming interactions. Lindzen is simply lying thru his teeth; there is far more money to be made as a global warming denier. He should know, as that (professional denialism) is his main means of support.

  24. “I agree that there is a lot of potential in solar energy, even here in NB. Again, costs are coming down and the future will likely see more and more residences producing significant proportions of their energy needs”

    Cost are coming down from where to where? Like mikel in finding green energy was great, by using natural gas and candles!
    And along with your solar you will need a nice 12,000 output diesel generator, in case you want toast in the morning and don’t have time to get the wood cook stove going.
    I never in my lifetime have seen so many talkers but few doers. The Dream catchers.

    Now here is the way it is done, A startup company so successful that they need a tour guide to be able to conduct a tour in french to large
    Apply, The Covered Bridge Potato chips company. The Albrights!

  25. “And along with your solar you will need a nice 12,000 output diesel generator, ”

    You clearly have a problem in reading comprehension. Who said anyone would rely on solar or wind for all of their power demands? Solar and wind are, for homeowners, supplemental sources of power that can be used to reduce their demands from the power grid. There are solar kits for example that can be used to provide electric power to hot water heaters. Might be handy should the grid fail due to ice storms.

  26. lol, I guess I do, like silly me would think if there was an ice storm there would be no sun shining. And to heat hot water would need what?, Oh say 50 panels at 1000 dollars each, no probably need 200. Plus a few other 1000’s of dollar items. Probably why we have the diesel generator! And I get accused of having a problem in reading comprehension, spelling, illiteracy,etc, but never a problem being proved wrong! Is that serious?

  27. For Tristan, tidal benefits really haven’t proven yet to be very cost effective, but to be fair, there was just a provincial investment in tidal power studies. There’s no doubt that that should have been begun twenty years ago. For wind, why build in the ocean when people on Grand Manan and in St. George have no problem with wind farms? Or even if they have problems, it doesn’t really matter since they can’t do anything about it anyway. The tides do make it a bit trickier than other locations though.
    For Richard, the point was it was a lot of power for a bad location. This is at a museum and environmental centre, they couldn’t move the building so it was set up a windmill there or not at all. You can go to NBPower and read the governments own report that maps out all the wind frequencies for the province. The fact that two companies are beginning the process of building large wind farms, and an Alberta company already has land for theirs is (or should be) proof that there is plenty of opportunity in wind.

    For net metering, gridlines would have to be upgraded, that’s true, which is why in order to be financially viable individual’s would need to be able to ‘sell’ more than 100KW. That’s exactly my point, in order to DO that, it needs to be financially viable-which means being able to sell MORE than that. There’s no point in my upgrading my lines if I can only ‘sell’ 100 KW (in this case though, its not at all). It’s easily possible, the government has a deal in place to buy power from the Albertan wind turbines, and obviously point lepreau sends power from one location, so it CAN be done. Certainly (probably) not from a regular house, but with upgraded lines. Just take a look at Texas which has been one of the biggest wind generators of the past decade, all thanks to easy adoption of wind investment.
    Pretty popular topic for one thats not on point huh.

  28. This isn’t quite off topic because green energy should be of interest to any engineering grad looking for a career. For instance, solar and wind CAN easily provide all your power needs-so long as the house design is done right. Solar water heaters are very common, in Japan they have been part of the energy plan for decades, these use silicon tubes on rooftops and provide ‘tankless’ hot water. And Japan is by no means a ‘sunny destination’. You can go to silicon solar and check out their products.

    I did a cost benefit for our current home to see if its worth attempting green power, but its not because it takes about ten years to pay for itself. But in most cities natural gas is far cheaper for stoves, washers and dryers, and furnaces, as well as being more efficient. So if most of your home uses gas, NOT electricity, it makes it pretty easy to provide your electrical needs with just solar and wind. Combine that with other green forms we haven’t even discussed-like geothermal, and there is no need for an electrical grid at all. If there were an easy way to hook up a stationary bike and treadmill to a generator, many homes wouldn’t need power at all. This has a lot to do with economic development because if you read David’s latest post, most the latest economic investments are in organics and green energy.

    A standing electrical water heater takes an ENORMOUS amount of power because you are essentially running a big stove to keep over 100 gallons of water hot. That is incredibly inefficient, and costs a fortune to do.

    For net metering, I just did some research, and its interesting to note that in the United States it is a Federal law that utilities MUST provide ‘net metering’ to their customers. Colorado and New Jersey have the ‘best’ net metering systems, and not only have a maximum of 2 MW, but they WILL pay you cash if you provide them with more juice than you take out. It’s highly doubtful that they have that different a transmission line than anywhere in Canada. That’s one more example of how New Brunswick COULD be a North American leader, quite easily in fact, just one policy change at NBPower.

    Although not on topic (but what is), its good Tristan admits that getting off oil is a good in and of itself because while there are tons of conspiracy stories, the fact is that the conclusions of the IPCC and Al Gore ARE highly suspect. There is money to be made on BOTH sides of the fence, and remember we are talking about climate-future climate-and this is an industry that can’t predict weather accurately a week in advance. I’d recommend downloading “Dimming the Sun” as well as “Global Warming or Global Governance”. The latter has excellent criticisms of global warming-most from former IPCC members whose research was excluded.

    However, for man made effects on weather, the first ten minutes of Dimming the Sun is worth watching. A climatologist did a study of weather patterns right after 9/11 when all the planes in the US were grounded and there was a HUGE effect on weather simply from air traffic. But at the library I remember finding a book from the seventies from climatologists who were predicting that by now we’d be in the midst of an ice age-not heating up. It’s worth doing some research on, its pretty interesting stuff.

  29. Reading these posts highlights a key point; it does not matter if an energy source is green or not. It only matters if the general public thinks it is green. We are not talking about a global ehthic mission, we are talking about economic development for New Brunswick.

    If there is a good story and good salemanship and people are willing to buy it, then it is good for New Brunswick. While we waste time debating the pros and cons, millionaire corn farmers are laughing all the way to the bank with their biofuel scam. Let’s focus on what the market demand is rather than the impact of various energy technologies.

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