The manufacturing sector in the United States continues to shrink â€” but could the renewable-energy rush spur a manufacturing revival?
A number of solar-panel factories are coming online in the United States, as I reported on Sunday. Makers of wind turbines are also establishing factories in the heartland, where the factoriesâ€™ proximity to wind farms on the Plains slashes the cost of shipping the giant machines from Europe.
In solar, there is plenty of competition from China. Boris Klebensberger, the head of the American branch of SolarWorld (the subject of my article Sunday), said that if the United States tried to compete on wages alone, "We lose always, and we will lose for many years to come."
But many renewable-equipment manufacturers want to set up operations in the United States because they perceive it to be the largest market for the technologies in the years ahead. (Tax credits in the stimulus package for domestic production of renewable-energy equipment also help.) A key factor in bringing SolarWorld to Oregon, said Mr. Klebensberger, was the work force â€” and especially Oregonians' "belief in change and how important renewables are." Proximity to a cluster of semiconductor factories, some of whose workers SolarWorld has recently poached, was another attraction.