TCS Daily


Let the Sun Set on Solar Fantasy

By Max Schulz - November 30, 2009 12:00 AM

"Solar power is a key component of our clean energy future," said 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.

"We love the jobs, and we love that the jobs include manufacturing jobs," Patrick said. "I look to this facility as a symbol of the kind of industry we want to build, as a symbol of the future."

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.

Earlier this month, Evergreen Solar shocked everyone by announcing it is cutting up to half of the 800 jobs at the brand-new, taxpayer-bought 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.

This shock came on the heels of Boston Power Inc. canceling plans to build a 600-job factory in Auburn. It had failed to win a $100 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop advanced battery technology. No government cash, no manufacturing plant and no jobs.

These body blows come amid Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 109,000 more Bay Staters are out of work than at the same point a year ago. 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.

Solar power is hardly economical in the sun-drenched Mojave desert. So what makes the governor think it makes sense in the Northeast?

The idea that Massachusetts might become a manufacturing center to serve the nation's green appetite took a big hit with Evergreen's Devens announcement. Yes, proximity to the brains at MIT and Harvard has its advantages, but Massachusetts' high manufacturing costs are job killers. 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.

Evergreen makes trendy products and received huge state subsidies. But if favored manufacturers that receive gobs of government cash can't 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?

Massachusetts' retail electricity rates are 57 percent higher than the national average and more than in every state except Hawaii, Connecticut and New York. Yet Patrick and his allies would have ratepayers pay even higher prices, since renewables are considerably more expensive than the conventional sources that now power the bulk of the state's economy.

Rather than chasing the renewable energy rainbow as the answer to Massachusetts' employment woes, policymakers should try to get a grip on those costs. If they did, they might stem the trend of employers deciding that the sun shines a little bit brighter and grass is greener elsewhere.


This article first appeared on BostonHerald.com.

Max Schulz is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

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32 Comments

Solar is not ready for prime time...but it is getting close
There are new cells in the labs that can get 20-40% efficiency now. They should be cheaper to make, too. Most use quantum dots or nanotech or both to achieve this.

But when it is ready, the industry will take off like a rocket w/o any help from the govmn't.

Hopey Changemas everyone!

Hey Joanie
We went to a buffet this year. The food was quite good. $29.95/person.

Yeah, houses themselves can be expensive that way.

I'm a Hobbit burrow freak myself. More homes should be underground. Concrete-based materials should also be used. There's all kinds of advances in ferrocrete, biocrete, etc. that make for long lasting, virtually maintanance-minimal building materials that are underutilized.

where is everyone?
Wow, less than 200 posted responses to none TCS articles. That has to be an all-time low. I quit visiting here regularly about 6 months ago, what has happened? I see some of the old names and a few new ones, but no real discussion.
Very sad!
Used to be there were 300 or more responses to a single article in less than a week. Now there are 3. On average it seems about 25 posts are given per article: but that is bogus too as 170+ are given to 3 articles. The rest have just a handful each.
It seems we need some good Global Warming stories or, maybe, some thing juicy on abortion.
Or maybe everyone is just tired of the place, it does happen!

Oh, various reasons
Holidays. Not many TCS articles getting posted on high-volume sites like realclearpolitics.com anymore. Roy bailed -- not sure if he's dead or just gave up.

Yup...it's dead, Jim!

Virtuality
>"Facebook, MySpace or just twittering"

Three places you'll never find me!

For real effiency, build a dome
"The Monolithic Dome is a micro-energy user. It needs a minimum of energy to maintain a comfortable interior, usually one fourth of that used by other types of structures. In fact, it takes less energy to heat or cool a Monolithic Dome than it does to heat or cool a super-insulated metal building or a conventional house blanketed in an airtight wrap."

http://www.monolithic.com/topics/benefits

Faceguard
>"you can belong to Facebook and still be an intellectual."

Well, far be it for me to ever hope to be confused with being an intellectual. (Now there's some red meat for any residual lurking Lefties.) ;^)

Besides, the always-entertaining Matt Labash summed up my feelings on the whole goofball Facebook craze here:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/content/public/articles/000/000/016/256implp.asp

where is everyone?
I think most of the posting were by Roy and his many detractors. He must have gotten sick of all the humiliations he had to suffer.
It must have also been a great blow to him to be caught out saying that some people should be killed if they don't agree with him, as he proposed for Marjon and Missypooh.

Well, the dialog goes missing when the other side folds
Roy wasn't even the worst of the liberals, but his lieaving may prove to be the death of TCS. Any site like this is driven by the number of hits it gets. How many other sites pick up the articles depends on the content and how much discussion it generates.

Unlike some I've read in the past, I disagree that the sometimes less than civilized banter did any harm. Roy and the others were not driven away by insults, but by the fact he wanted to be with others who agree with him. I'm finding that to be human nature.

It seems no one wants to get into a good old fashioned verbal brawl anymore. That's too bad and a major problem with our society. Most people only watch, read and listen to those whom they already agree with politically, emotionally and psychologically. They will get into discussion or arguments only on the small points and not on the big picture.

Really, it is completely intellectually dishonest and not very interesting. And that is why I left; the place had gotten boring. Sorry folks, but most of you are philosophically close to me. We may have some base difference on a few specific issues, but arguing with most of you on 90% of what is posted here would just be an exercise in mental masturbation. While I've been know to switch sides just to start an argument, that is much more fun in person, and is still just a way to start a fight.

I will remain lurking our there, but it is hard to say where there will be an article or post that compels me to respond.

your light bulb problem
I had the same problem and some knowledgable guys told me that there are really NO florescent or others of those modern kind that work with dimmer switches. They say it's because of the ballast mechanism the require.

A lot of the green stuff is just a scam.

Off in their private worlds
I'm not here any more. Hence, no one here to argue with. None of the old regulars bother talking with each other any more.. too boring. They're already in agreement.

Why did I leave? I got tired of all the intentional stupidity. The place is so doctrinaire it's like reading Pravda.. every day the same tired crapola.

Not exactly
"Roy and the others were not driven away by insults, but by the fact he wanted to be with others who agree with him. I'm finding that to be human nature."

Nope. I've been looking for stimulating debate. Mostly what I'd been finding here has been party-line babbling.. and idiotic reasoning in support of a foreordained conclusion. That's not the way reasoning should work. One should start with the reasoning and then REACH the conclusion.

In short, the place is too dumb to put up with any longer.

You might be surprised that I almost never contribute to, or even read, the left-liberal websites. Why should I? I'm already familiar with the material, and not the sort to contribute little gems like "I agree" or "sock it to em".

You would be correct, however, in observing that most people have been found to only like talking with those they agree with. Polls have affirmed that notion. I guess that's the diff between me and the rest of us.

And you as well
Thanks. A sense of humor is definitely needed around here. How can anyone look at the world we've made for ourselves and not think it needs more whimsy?

You're right, we do celebrate the solstice around our house. And have many friends and relatives to help us. As they say, may all your friends become family.. and your family become your friends!

Watch out.. yet another year on the way.

Underground
If you build underground you have to take extra precautions against radon infiltration in many areas.

Good to "see" you old bean
I would agree, but from the opposite prospective - no one to joust with.

To some extent, on this site, it is
you and I don't really have any base areas of disagreement. Sure, we can find points to argue about, but that is exactly my point. We have to try to create a good discussion.

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