But the larger markets for wind and solar don’t immediately translate into manufacturing jobs in renewable energy–at least not within the United States. They do create jobs installing wind and solar farms and maintaining them, but 75 percent of the jobs that these projects generate are not in installation or maintenance, but rather in manufacturing the solar panels and wind turbines, says Joan Fitzgerald, director of the Law, Policy and Society Program at Northeastern University. And for the most part, this manufacturing is done outside of the United States, in places such as Germany and China. In addition to further incentives to grow the market for renewable energy, such as a national requirement that utilities use a certain amount of it, it’s important to have incentives to help companies build new factories and retool existing ones, she says.
Some such incentives exist now, such as the loan guarantees made possible under the 2005 energy bill. The stimulus bill also established a manufacturing tax credit that would provide credits equal to 30 percent of the cost of constructing factories that make clean energy products (this includes making solar panels or wind turbines, for example, as well the parts or machines needed to make them). Last month, President Obama announced 183 projects that will get these credits, which will come to $2.3 billion and will fund projects worth about $7.7 billion. Last year the administration also granted loans for the manufacturing of advanced technology vehicles, such as electric cars. The loans were established by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, but hadn’t been granted.
The stimulus bill has started to draw manufacturing from foreign companies to the United States. In part because of the bill, a solar factory in New Mexico owned by the Germany-based Schott Solar doubled the number of employees assembling solar panels. The Chinese company Suntech pushed up plans to build a factory in Arizona by one to two years in response to the Recovery Act, says Roger Efird, the managing director of Suntech America, a branch of Suntech Power.
Although the money hasn’t been spent yet for two key projects–the smart grid and high-speed rail–the DOE and the U.S. Department of Transportation have announced who the money will be awarded to, and will soon start to distribute funds. The smart grid and high-speed rail projects’ funding will come to $12.5 billion.