In Ohio: Solar Shines with New Jobs

November 10, 2020

Above, my conversation with Dan Kammen of the University of California (possibly on short list for DOE in new administration).
We talked about the robust economic growth of renewable energy companies in America’s Heartland – specifically Ohio.
A news item from this morning’s Toledo Blade jogged my memory.

The Blade (paywall):

LUCKEY, Ohio — Wearing a blue hardhat and safety goggles, Dick Altman dipped the propane torch in his white-gloved hand onto a larger ignition device, and with a roaring whoosh the NSG Group executive pushed northwest Ohio even further into the lead for U.S. solar panel production.

Mr. Altman, NSG Regional Director of Architectural Glass North America, was selected to light the industrial furnace just past noon Monday at NSG’s new $265 million float glass plant on Pemberville Road in Luckey.

The half-hour ceremony was attended by Tokyo-based NSG executives, First Solar, Inc. executives, Wood County officials, and others, and signified that the 17-month race to construct the plant was nearly at an end.

Solar is exploding in the Heartland, even the Upper Midwest.
Here, new solar field will be the largest in Michigan.

The furnace will continue to heat with test glass produced by month’s end. The 511,000-square-foot glass plant, which will employ 110 hourly workers and 40 salaried workers, is expected to start full production in December.

The plant, NSG’s first new U.S. glass-making facility since 1980, will be capable of making 600 tons of glass per day and about 130,000 tons of glass annually. About 70 percent of the glass made by the plant will be used by First Solar’s plants just 10 miles north in Perrysburg Township to produce its Series 6 advanced solar panels.

“Today is a very momentous occasion for NSG. I’ve had the privilege of being with NSG over 41 years. This is the first time in those 41 years we have had the privilege of lighting a new furnace,” Mr. Altman told the crowd of dignitaries and plant workers attending the ceremony.

“It’s a really exciting time for us here at the NSG Group. It’s a real time of celebration for us,” he added.

To the layman, lighting a furnace at a glass plant may seem trivial but in fact, it is a significant event because once a furnace is lit, it cannot be shut down until it is worn out and must be replaced.

“It will stay lit for the next 18 to 20 years. During that time, molten glass will continually flow out of it,” said Stephen Weidner, NSG Pilkington vice president of Architectural Glass North America. With the Luckey plant, Pilkington, which is owned by NSG, will employ about 700 workers in the Toledo area.

The plant will produce a product called TCO — transparent conductive oxide glass.

“The coating on our glass acts as a cathode to conduct the electricity out of the solar panel. We look at our glass as kind of a flat transparent wire that will channel the electricity out of the panel,” Mr. Weidner said.

Mike Koralewski, Chief Manufacturing Operations Officer for First Solar, said at the lighting ceremony that when the Phoenix-based solar panel maker came to NSG needing a new type of glass to expand its manufacturing footprint, “… NSG responded like a true partner would and what you see today is the result of that long and valued relationship.

“The fact that we can be here today to light this furnace is a testament to the ability of NSG to understand our business, our need, and to build in the regions around that,” he said, adding that First Solar now has 1,500 workers building the Series 6 panels in Perrysburg Township.

“These are modules that power projects, both big and small across the United States. They’re sitting in community centers, they’re sitting in schools, data centers, factories. These are the modules that are going to help power America towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy future. This [furnace] is part of that. This [furnace] underscores Ohio’s role as the home of American solar,” Mr. Koralewski said.

Dan Knecht, the plant’s manager, said lighting the furnace is “a significant milestone” in NSG’s role service its customers.

“As you reflect back on 17 months ago, we had a groundbreaking in April, 2019 and on this very spot where we stand was little more than a hole where we were digging some 30 feet into the ground — a very flat, wet site to make way for this,” Mr. Knecht said. “And if you really reflect on how amazing it is to get to the point that we are here today, what’s even more amazing is we did it despite a global pandemic.”

The plant manager said it took a collaboration between many parties to get the plant built. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but the reward is high as we serve our customer, First Solar,” he said.

Mr. Altman commended NSG management for investing in the Luckey plant as part of an overall $350 million investment by the company to better serve its customers.


3 Responses to “In Ohio: Solar Shines with New Jobs”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Clueless denialists will use the fact that fossil fuels are used to make solar panel glass as a gotcha talking point, unaware that the bootstrapping function of this technology will make products that will convert sunshine into many megajoules of energy over their lifetime.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      Yes, they will, and normally tu quoque arguments are not valid, but this strongly and legitimately suggests–“It will stay lit for the next 18 to 20 years”…etc.–that we can’t stop using gas.

      In fact all the research I’ve done says we can replace all the things ARFs (Anti-Renewable Fanatics) say are irreplaceable; it’s just more expensive or inconvenient at the moment, though they will soon be cheaper., especially if we prioritize them with Manhattan-like projects. Steel, concrete, continental flying, shipping… none of them are unbreachable barriers to 100% RE living. Only the intransigent insistence that the rich profit from nearly every action, is stopping us from doing everything required to prevent catastrophe. It’s time we started saying that technology is perfectly capable of doing what we need and we have the industrial capacity to do it all; the problems are capitalism and inequality.

  2. leslie graham Says:

    What the **** is ‘square foot’?

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