Can Solar Power Revive the US Manufacturing Sector?


Perhaps not all by itself, but, according to the Washington Post, the production of solar panels for homes and businesses has proven itself a job-creator. BP Solar, for instance, plans to double capacity in its Frederick, Maryland, plant, which will mean the creation of 70 new jobs. In the three years since launching the solar service company SunEdison in Washington, DC, owner Jigar Shah has hired 150 people. While neither of these examples illustrate a widespread rebirth of some American manufacturing industries, the ongoing market demand for solar panels could mean expanding opportunities for workers who've had to trade high-paying jobs for less appealing (and worse paying) employment in the service sector:

Many of the jobs are good ones, in contrast to the low-wage food-service jobs that have bolstered employment statistics without improving quality of life for the people who hold them. "You're producing high-quality manufacturing jobs when others are moving out of the United States," [president of the Solar Energy Industries Association Rhone] Resch said. "If you look at the next high-tech growth industry in the United States, it can and should be solar energy."
Some in the industry are even convinced that the relatively long life span of conventional solar panels could make the technology economically competitive without government subsidies; others, such as the Apollo Alliance, claim that "...a $30 billion federal program could create 3.3 million jobs over 10 years." No one expects that level of investment from the feds, but states and local governments are backing the young industry, and seeing signs of economic growth as a result. The numbers aren't huge, but to point to exciting possibilities for job growth, more energy independence, and a cleaner environment to boot. Cue up "The Future's So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)"... ::Washington Post

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