Like many other cities and states, Boston is focusing job creation and training efforts on green industry. First, Green Jobs Boston seeks to coordinate government sponsored green training programs with its efforts to create green jobs. For instance, it seeks to align efficiency and weatherization training with Renew Boston, the city’s energy efficiency retrofit program. Also, in developing Boston’s Innovation District, the city hopes to attract more green business. As mentioned in BRA post Oasys Water Lands in Innovation District, the district is already home to several cleantech businesses including Oasys Water, Next Step Living, and FastCap Systems.
As Boston continues to work to build its green industry, Massachusetts just learned it will lose the Evergreen Solar manufacturing plant in Devens. Evergreen Solar is a developer and manufacturer of PV modules and solar cells and also has plants in Midland, MI and a new plant in Wuhan, China, where the company sent its Massachusetts panel assembly operation in 2010. In this month’s announcement, Evergreen solar reported that the Deven’s plant will close because of continued downward pressure on price, increasingly competitive Chinese solar products (due partially to generous Chinese subsidies), and a believed “disadvantaged” American climate for manufacturing. This announcement comes after a November report that the company’s “net loss for the third quarter of 2010 was $27.2 million. . . .” Also, just weeks ago, the company instituted a 1-for-6 reverse stock split that reduced the company’s shares from 209 million to approximately 35 million. Despite receiving $58 million in subsidies from Massachusetts to build the Deven’s plant, Evergreen Solar was unable to thrive in Massachusetts.
The up and down experience with solar manufacturing in Massachusetts is not an unusual story. For Austin, Texas, the story recently moved in the opposite direction. Despite considerable effort to attract solar manufacturers, Austin only seemed able to lose them. In 2009, New Mexico lured Solar Array from Austin with deep subsidies. Also, Austin lost wind farm developer Renewable Energy Systems to Colorado, where the company is developing a large wind farm. But things are looking up now. In December 2010, Sun Power, a manufacturer of solar cells, panels, and systems, announced the expansion of its corporate operations into Austin, which will create 450 jobs over the next four years. To undertake the expansion, the company received $2.5 millions dollars from the state of Texas and a $900,000 grant from Austin. This is considerably less than the $58 million Massachusetts invested in Evergreen. In addition to Sun Power, Austin has been home to the thin film solar module manufacturer HelioVolt since 2001. Time will tell if the solar sector takes hold in Austin.