3rd Biggest Solar Panel Maker in the Country Closes US Operations, Hightails it to China

An article today on GOOD about the potential of renewable energy says, "every hour enough sunlight reaches the Earth's surface to meet the world's energy demands for a year." If only we could utilize such potential! Of course there are folks out there trying, but the solar business, it turns out, is still a tough business.

The New York Timesreported today that Evergreen Solar, the third-largest manufacturer of solar panels in the U.S. is closing their American operations and hightailing it to China. Apparently, $43 million in assistance from Massachusetts taxpayers wasn't enough to keep Evergreen Solar's 800 jobs in the country. China, which just became the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines, is apparently able to give much more support for solar ventures than the U.S. government.

So much support that the Obama administration has been muttering that China is violating the free trade rules of the WTO with all their state subsidies for renewables. (A big meeting between Obama and President Hu Jintao will take place this week and may be hugely significantfor the development of clean energy.)

The issue, according to the Times, has to do with prices for solar panels dropping, hugely:

World prices have fallen as much as two-thirds in the last three years -- including a drop of 10 percent during last year's fourth quarter alone.

Chinese manufacturers, Mr. El-Hillow [Evergreen Solar's chief executive] said in the statement, have been able to push prices down sharply because they receive considerable help from the Chinese government and state-owned banks, and because manufacturing costs are generally lower in China.

Perhaps the U.S. government would like to rethink it's policy of subsidizing dirty energy like coal and oil and instead give a little love to the clean tech sector. Our environment could use the help and so could American workers.

AlterNet / By Tara Lohan

Posted at January 17, 2011, 10:06am

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