Midwest – The Renewable Powerhouse Emerges

December 3, 2010

An article this week in the New York Times discusses an awakening industrial giant that is not news to us in Michigan and the midwest.  Lead by an alliance of  few stubborn visionaries unwilling to buy into the media story of bleak decay, bright spots of the new energy future are emerging in a once gloomy landscape.

It’s particularly true in my neck of the woods, the Great Lakes Bay area of Michigan.  Hidden in sleepy farmlands in the state’s midsection, Hemlock Semiconductor is among the largest producers in the world of polycrystalline silicon for semiconductors, as well as for the surging photovoltaic industry. Drawn by the emerging supply chain, several other companies are setting up operations in the area, including Suniva Inc., a Norcross, Ga.-based solar cell manufacturer, which plans to build a $250 million solar cell plant in Saginaw County’s Thomas Township; Evergreen Solar Inc., a Marlboro, Mass.-based company that produces filament used to create solar wafers, in nearby Midland; and GlobalWatt, a San Jose, Calif.-based photovoltaic module manufacturer, which is investing $177 million in a plant that will manufacture both solar modules and systems, such as a mobile solar generator.

Chemical giant Dow Chemical, which has its corporate headquarters in Midland, has broken ground on a new advanced battery facility, a joint venture with TK Advanced Battery Group and Dassault SVE, that will employ 320 people, and is one of 17 such new facilities in the state.

According to the Times;

A number of conditions in the Midwest have allowed the sector to flourish. The upper Midwest has a history of advanced manufacturing, and machined parts and many of the basic materials of photovoltaic panels — polycrystalline in central Michigan, glass in the Toledo region, plastic films in Ohio — were already being made in the region.

Both states have an abundance of shuttered plants that can be readily converted to new uses and are close to highway, rail and shipping supply lines in the center of the country.

Equally important, both states have an army of unemployed or underemployed skilled manufacturing workers.

Emblematic of the burgeoning sector is the Net Zero House, a cutting edge residential model home in Bay City, on Saginaw Bay, which is designed to produce more energy than it uses.

The structure integrates advanced building efficiency design, and Dow’s new “Powerhouse” Solar Shingles, which the company will soon begin to manufacture in quantity at the Midland site.

There are many solar houses, and a number of net zero houses throughout the United States, but not many at this latitude, (43 north) in the harsh midwestern climate. The structure is as big a psychological as it is a technological breakthrough.


One Response to “Midwest – The Renewable Powerhouse Emerges”

  1. […] Note to self. Dave Camp is my rep, and a high school chum…..I need to remind him about the explosion of new,sustainable energy investment and jobs in his district…. […]

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