Delaware’s Green Economy Suffers A Setback

The GE plant in Newark that makes solar panels is laying off 85 employees:
Rumsey said orders have been falling and inventory piling up as potential customers struggle to find financing for photovoltaic installations, which convert sunlight to electricity. “It’s unfortunate, but we have to align our manufacturing output with the demand that we have,” Rumsey said.
And if you think that’s a big bummer, check out this little tidbit:
But Pichel said the cost disadvantages of making solar components in the United States are becoming pronounced, and he believes more companies will outsource production to China.
Argh.

37 thoughts on “Delaware’s Green Economy Suffers A Setback”

  1. All along, many of us who have advocated renewable energy over the last decade or so have realized that the U.S. would never be able to beat low-cost labor, particularly in China. I personally have believed that once these industries consolidate around and normalize specific mass-production methods and standardized end products, the cheap labor is what will then make it ubiquitous and desirable for household energy needs.

    If American innovators can partner with the Chinese, for example, and the Chinese can inexpensively produce these products both for themselves and the U.S. at the same time, it is a win-win situation when it comes to renewable energy’s ultimate benefits, especially in solar power.

    The lower the cost, the sooner to market and the sooner the mass proliferation of renewable energy technology begins to have positive multiplier effects both environmentally and against increasing global instability and scarcity in energy commodities.

    Yeah, it sucks American labor is (at least now) too expensive to eventually mass produce renewable energy at its cheapest for U.S. and world markets, but this is damn sure no reason to hold renewable energy back from as rapid a market growth as economically and physically possible.

  2. An a side-note to proactively halt any bashing from visitors, do know that Maria, in all likelihood, is genuinely bummed out by this. I don’t for a minute believe she is being sarcastic, as would be expected by some of the pro-NRG types (seriously, they exist and they exist all around this state), to give an example.

  3. ““It’s unfortunate, but we have to align our manufacturing output with the demand that we have,” Rumsey said.”

    Makes perfect sense to me. GE was not succesfull with its green business here in Delaware so it has to cut back. They tried and found out that there is not sufficient demand for solar panels at the price GE had to charge in order to make a profit. My dad would love to try solar or wind energy at his house, but at the moment neither is really cost effective for him, even with tax credits factored in.

    I think that “Green” business will start to find more stable footing as it starts to realize that it is business and acts like it. The laws of supply and demand apply. So while we regret the loss of the jobs lets replace them with jobs in an industry or company that is succeeding, rather than failing. I am glad GE realized that it was failing in this venture and is acting accordingly. A little less time manufacturing demand where it isn’t and a little more time developing and manufacturing affordable products that are actually in demand already would really help the renewable energy industry.

  4. This is not so much a solar energy problem as it is just a general problem with manufacturing in the U.S.A. We have failed to keep American workers competitive with workers around the world.

    “The rising cost of U.S. health care puts American firms at a competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace where foreign competitors do not carry the cost of health benefits for their employees. U.S. manufacturers pay $2.38 an hour for health benefits, while manufacturers among America’s major trading partnerspay only $0.96 an hour on average.5 As an example of the price pressure created by health care, General Motors reported that $1,500 per car made in the United States is attributable to health care. It is significantly cheaper to produce goods in Canada where health care as a percentage of payroll is only 4.5% compared to 13% in the U.S.6 This creates a major incentive for U.S. employers to expand production abroad, but not at home.”

    Sure there are plenty of counter argument, but the fact remains a lot of other countries have figured out how to cut out the “middleman” the sharks in the health insurance industry who suck up so much of our healthcare money just for processing paperwork.

    If you make solar panels in Newark be prepared to pay $12,000 a year per worker just for “insurance”. In other countries they have figured out indirect ways of paying for health insurance. Where would you set up a factory? In a country where your company pays for medical insurance, or in a country where medical insurance is part of the national infrastructure like road, bridges, and postal service.

  5. Wow !! I find it hard to believe that such a desirable and effective product can’t find it’s place in the free market. Something that is both efficent and cost effective yet still cannot manage to find buyers? It’s not as if there were better alternatives that were both cheaper and proven to be effective.
    Oh ! Wait there are!! Solar and wind haven’t failed because they can’t be produce cheaper, they have faile because they have failed to over come their draw backs. The only way either will succeed is if government subsidizes them or drives the price of fossil fuels through the roof with taxes and regulation, something the Obama administration has hinted at and something a good conservative such as Maria would be against I’m sure ? I’m sure no conservative would be in favor of minipulating the market so that a flawed product would be forcerd onto the consumers.
    What we should be doing especially in these trying economic times is working to make energy cheaper and more plentiful by building new refineries and nuclear power plants, and drilling every square inch of domestic land that has the potential for oil, oh and remove restrictions on coal while we are at it since it is our largest natural resource and can with the new technology be used with a much reduced impact then in the past.
    Now I’m sure I’ll be labled an NRG lover but I’m not , the problem with NRG is that there has been no enforcement by the powers that be, make them be clean but don’t shut them down except as a last resort.

  6. I find it hard to believe that such a desirable and effective product can’t find it’s place in the free market.

    Oh but it is, Frank. Don’t kid yourself. They are on the way and here to stay. Kiss your refineries and fossil fuels goodbye, in the long term…unless of course you have a pretty foolproof solution for what happens when the spigot runs dry….

    You want to shift the whole issue back to fuel commodities, whereas this post is about the production and market development of technologies that will provide energy from fuels which cannot be sold or metered like commodities.

    The renewable energy industry is in its infancy, much where the information technology industry was in the late 70’s, before Microsoft, Apple, and others came along like gangbusters. Economies of scale have barely begun to be exploited in this industry.

    When the car was first being produced (before Henry Ford came along) the cost of cars was extremely high, the realm of the very wealthy alone.

    But because of the obvious superiority of the automobile over any manual or horse-drawn conveyance, only foolish Luddites pooh-poohed the cars’ initial high prices…and simply redoubled their investment in horse hay.

    The same is true of renewable energy technology. Even just what we have now available is simply superior for energy production for all sustainable time. Once integrated it will perpetually provide energy from those same constant resources without which life on earth would cease to exist.

    To simply accelerate our burning of non-renewable fuels because the renewable/sustainable energy tech market is growing slowly, but nonetheless methodically, would be insanity, even aside from the environmental impact this implicates.

  7. “To simply accelerate our burning of non-renewable fuels because the renewable/sustainable energy tech market is growing slowly, but nonetheless methodically, would be insanity”
    We are talking about Frank you know 🙂
    Although Tyler, in a real weird way, the only way to get some people over the fossil fuel nightmare is to in fact run out of the stuff, leaving everyone no choice by different alternatives for energy.

  8. Today, the only reason to voice vocal support for further fossil fuel expansion, is because you are getting paid to do so…

    Facts are on the green’s side.

  9. Hi Frank, I’ve missed you 🙂

    Yeah, I’m against all of that stuff. But you missed one: The government basically forces you to convert to solar/alternative energy via a crushing carbon tax on your personal energy consumption. I can certainly see that one coming.

    The biggest problem with solar right now is the cost, and people aren’t confident enough in the economy to make that kind of investment right now. There is solar that’s fairly reasonably priced and works well, like solar hot water heating, but if you’re looking to go all solar, it’s going to set you back a bundle.

    And you know drilling for oil domestically doesn’t really freak me out much, unless you want to drill the original section of the ANWR set aside by Eisenhower. Then we’re gonna have problems. But I’m sure we could reach a compromise with some slant drilling from the Carter section of the ANWR and a few pictures of polar bear babies on ice flows.

    The reality is that it’s going to take a heck of a lot of reasonably priced clean energy technology to get the nation off of the oil. And even when we get that technology, it’s going to take an incredibly long time to get everything converted. Just think of all of the houses hooked up to oil heat…in the meantime expensive oil will be a huge burden on the poor, it will keep more families from flourishing, and it will keep more people living from paycheck to paycheck…

  10. Ok, can someone tell me the difference in having the state buy and install these solar panels, of course, at the price being asked by the local manufacturer in order to keep these jobs continuing, versus that of…. paying workers at prevailing wage rates, which are of course, at the price asked by the unions, to keep those jobs continuing?

    To me, they seem to be the same.

  11. “Facts are on the green’s side.” – kavips
    The facts are all over the place at best.

    I get the impression that environmentalist think that capitalists are in love with oil and things that pollute the earth. While the people who work in the oil and coal industries may have a preference for it the bulk of capitalist have no special attachment to fossil fuels. What we are fans of is industry that makes economic sense. To the extent that renewable energy meets the demands of people at a reasonable cost, both up front and long term, we will be attracted to it. Why would we oppose something that is economicaly viable, and profitable. Not believing that the science is settled on global warming isn’t a reason for us to turn our back on renewable energy if we can create a sound business plan for its use.

  12. First, the reason that fossil fuels make economic sense is because all of the costs aren’t factored in. If I made a widget, and could sell it for $10 and cause $20 of damage to the environment (say mercury emissions if you don’t like CO2) then the real price of that widget is hidden, and I snookered you, because you will have to pay for the rest of the cost and get no value from it.

    Second, the layoffs are directly linked to the credit crunch. The article I read said that the equipment that they were making was for “large-scale solar” which is way more capital intensive than a $10K install on a residential roof. I don’t know if when the credit crunch is over those jobs go to China or not. They may, just because that is where their customers are going to be.

  13. LG yeah on your first point, but it’s still going to take a long time to retool the country, and the high oil prices during the transition years will take a toll on the poor.

  14. Sure, but it takes a long time to get ready for vacation so I don’t wait until 2 hours before the flight to pack. And remember that for now, it takes a hell of a lot of fossil fuels to build the infrastructure. You think Bluewater will be running those turbines out on electric boats? The cost of converting our infrastructure goes up every day we wait.

  15. First off L G if you had been following along Blue Failure may not be running anything out anywhere as predicted unless the state steps in and takes on the investment also predicted by your’s truly.
    Now as was pointed out above by the lovely Maria the manner in which the government would force solar and wind down the throats of the consumer would effect the poorest the most , but I’m sure the state lovers among you would be in favor of subsidizing the cost. Higher taxes solves all in some people’s world.
    Maria was also correct that cap and trade is just another tool for government to force it’s agenda on the free market.
    As for whether or not solar and wind will make it on an industrial scale ? No , not anytime soon. As for being used for individual homes I believe wind generation does help to offset the cost of oil , gas and electric. The problem with solar for the individual is not only the cost which at this time limits it to mostly only those who think their farts smell like roses and do it as a status symbol, but also the eye sore that it is , some people just don’t want the things mounted to their roofs or on a pole in the middle of their front yards.
    I do find it interesting that all of the proponents of solar and wind comepletely avoided nuclear and focussed on fossil. Why not nuclear , it’s clean , it’s safe just look at France, and the storage problem is being solved by being able to reuse the waste.
    And if we are really interested in solving more problems then we create with our energy generation and we want a renewable energy source then waste to energy is the most viable . It reduce the size of land fills and the amount of seepage into our water , reduces the amount of methane, is renewable , makes use of re cyclable materials, utilizes known and proven technology for energy generation. Now that is six positive things that waste to energy does, and the one negative thing it does is to emit CO2, and this is limited due to the scrubbing technology that has been developed.Also CO2 is a natural accuring element not a pollutant and the science on whether it is causing global warming is still being questioned except by the fossil haters.

  16. “some people just don’t want the things mounted to their roofs or on a pole in the middle of their front yards”
    But we can put satellite dishes there 🙂
    “Also CO2 is a natural accuring element not a pollutant”
    OK, next time we’ll hook you up to a CO2 tank instead of oxygen. Might change your perspective a bit.
    Really it’s too easy 🙂

    Although I wasn’t around when it happened, the infrastructure to run our present power/communications towers, etc. was pretty expensive. That required a lot of government intervention and I’m going to guess so will using renewable energy.
    “science on whether it is causing global warming”
    Frank take that out of the equation if you must and consider this. THERE IS A FINITE AMOUNT OF FOSSIL FUELS available. Eventually it will run out. Perhaps it’s in someone’s best interest to develop alternatives before it’s too late

  17. This is a prime opportunity for a local municipality to make a bulk purchase and create an initiative to solarize their town. Especially for a town that has it’s own power company, like some do in this state. *CoughSeaford*

    I know, kicking a dead horse.

  18. I thought Jack markell and Levine and the new DNERC guy were going to add green jobs not lose them.

  19. Insteresting misspelling on LEVIN there, Elwood. Anyway, what are you suggesting, they intervene on a private venture? Pick an argument and keep with it, ‘k?

  20. Don’t we tend to bitch and moan when that happens, though? Personally, I don’t have too much of an issue with it, so long as the company doesn’t get a total free ride. No pimpin’ out the state!!!

  21. Mark H. , I didn’t say they couldn’t put up solar panels , I said some people don’t want to, but maybe we should force them. As for hooking up a CO2 tank instead of an oxygen tank well we are surrounded by these things called plants that take in CO2 and give off oxygen and we animals do the reverse, both are naturally accuring acts or do you believe oxygen is a pollutant ? To your point of fossils running out, well there are some who think that the planet is continually creating more, maybe ,maybe not but shouldn’t we use what we have until solar and wind are actually viable on an industrial scale?
    L G , you say BWW is still a going concern ? If it is such a great deal then how come it hasn’t been snapped up ? And why would a company in trouble sell off a money maker, you normally sell off the money losers to cut your losses. And I said solar and wind don’t work on an ” industrial scale ” that can compete with oil, coal and gas plants. This is not possible at this time because the energy cannot be stored and is not constant which plays havoc with the grid.
    Brian see above . Oh and as for your wide open field you might want to look into the amount of square acreage it would take just for “cough Seaford “.
    And Dave I wouldn’t be against low interest loans except that if these projects fail halfway through the state then has a tendency to step in and prop them up with more taxpayer dollars. There are market reasons why things fail that cannot be overcome by more money and hope just look to D.C. .
    Now I will note once more that no one dared to touch on either nuclear or waste to energy guess either they don’t play well with your fossil hating or your not invested in them as I wonder if some are in solar and wind.

  22. GAAAHHH!!!! No, not another My-African-Violet-will-consume-all-the-CO2 argument! Unfortunately, Frank, there is descreasing plant/vegetation land areas for this consumption (usually in favor of dwellings or pavement of some type). Additionally, what else absorbs CO2? Us (and really – we aren’t meant to) and ocean. Ocean, you say? Yup. It’s not just ice melts (which does happen, but has been far over-prioritized, making the whole problem more radical than it should have ever been), Frank. Ocean currents slow down from too much CO2. Oceans become more dense, which aids in the slowing of currents. Honestly, I don’t worry about glacial melt so much, it’s the ocean currents that spook me. THAT is the real weather/climate changer potential.

  23. RSmitty, I was only pointing out to Mark H. that CO2 is not a pollutant but a naturally accuring element the same as oxygen,and of course even oxygen can be poisonous in large doses. Forgive me if I am skeptical of the science that says that the panet is dying or if I am not sufficiently frightened. I feel that there is enough counter science to make the outcome questionable and I know that this will send some people over the edge but , I have a faith in the creator that all things are as they should be. I believe the planet is stronger than man’s abillity to destroy it. Remember that we have only the power that God allows us.
    And let us not forget that the most abundant green house gas is H2O maybe we should find ways to lower the amount of water in the atmosphere first but that doesn’t play as well as Co2 and the anti industrialist groups who are more interested in crippling our economy than saving the planet.

  24. “I believe the planet is stronger than man’s abillity to destroy it”
    Frank, yes it is. The planet will be fine once it gets rid of us pesky humans 🙂

    “says that the panet is dying ” No Frank the planet isn’t dying, just becoming inhospitable and unable to produce food for all of the pesky humans.

  25. …I have a faith in the creator that all things are as they should be…

    This may surprise you, but I can go with you on this, too. Are we not charged with the responsibility to be faithful stewards of the planet? This doesn’t mean consume and plunder at will, at least in my view. As stewards, we’ve done an absolute rotten-awful job. So much of the “fresh” water is unpotable, we can’t drink it, eat food from it, bathe in it, and so on.

    I sincerely believe, that as a race of beings, we humans have blown it, 100%.

  26. RSmitty , you may not believe this but I agree that we have not always been the best stewards, but I also believe that this world is temperary at best as I understand it . This does not mean we need to seek the end but neither should we fear it. I also believe that there are those among us who have blown many things out of proportion in an attempt to move an earthly agenda forward.
    I’ll try and move this thread back towards the original topic, sorry Maria.
    The way I see it is that the new energy technology that so many believe will save us from ourselves is not at this time competative with the tried and true fossil fuels. The current administraion in D.C. has as much as said and I believe has actually said that they intend to drive up the cost of fossil fuels through taxation and regulation until the alternative energy sources are competative at least price wise. Now I am not against an old technology being replaced by a new one in a free market where the new technology is tried by fire of cost effectiveness and it’s abillity to deliver what it promises. This process takes time and allows for the market to gently adjust in respect to the companies that produce the old technology and their employees. I’m not saying that there hasn’t been times in history where one tech. is replaced by another tech. in a very short amount of time leaving companies and workers in the lurch , but for the most part it takes some time.
    But if the government artificially munipulates the market and forces the fossil industry out of business then what happens to that part of the economy? What happens to the forty or fifty year old rough necks working the oil fields who are to old to go back to school to learn how to assemble wind turbines, and all of the coal miners in some of the poorest areas of the nation who have worked that job for generations . Do we just put them on the welfare rolls ? How does that better our society?
    Now think of the amount of tax imposed on the fossil industry that the government relies on so much. How you going to tax the sun old son? Where do they make up that lost revenue?
    No I’m sorry I don’t think too many people have thought this through far enough . Too many people are thinking emotionally instead of logically.
    We should allow the technology to move forward being driven by that which has never failed us, the desire to achieve success and wealth. We should not allow it to be driven by susidies and fear.

  27. I wonder why Connecticut was under ice 20,000 years ago? Why there was a ‘Little Ice Age’ in the 1800’s? Why the Martain polar ice cap is receeding?

    Could it be that there is a pinkish hue to the ‘green movement?’

    Since China has numerous nuclear-power plants in the works, they won’t have much interest in solar panels- except for selling them to suckers like us.

  28. Actually, Rick, the little ice age in the 1800’s did have to do with ocean currents slowing. Many reports have been written on that. Now, of course, people may wonder how that happened then, pre-industrial age. Well, climatic cycles, of course. Hey, I have no doubt that “global warming” has been radicalized; however, to pretend there is absolutely no problem is just as farcical. The cycle right now is not true to the pattern, yet not terribly far off, relatively speaking. It is off, though, it’s a smaller time interval. What I believe, and I take this from scientists who have pretty much planted themselves in the middle (I know, go figure), is that there is a contribution factor at play here. It is mainly cyclical, but we’ve exaggerated the effect. Forget the ice caps and glacial ice. They are important, but focusing there is disingenuous to the concern on the whole. CO2 issues will present themselves as far more harmful in the ocean currents than elsewhere. Does this mean we have to 100% forgo CO2 emissions? Of course not. We are simply consumers that engorge ourselves without any thought of consequence (sort of like our economic mess, eh?). Hell, how can anyone expect going cold turkey when we have no clue how to moderate?

  29. How do they know that ocean currents ‘slowed’ in the 1800’s? And, what do ‘slow’ ocean currents have to do with a drastic fall in average temps? And, what were the temps, in relation to the US and Europe, in the polar regions and the southern hemisphere at that time?

    Beware of pinkish-hued green gibberish.

  30. “What happens to the forty or fifty year old rough necks working the oil fields who are to old to go back to school to learn how to assemble wind turbines, and all of the coal miners in some of the poorest areas of the nation who have worked that job for generations . Do we just put them on the welfare rolls ? How does that better our society?”

    They just pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

  31. Hey meatball I’m a boot strap kind of guy, but I usually reserve that statement for people who tend to lay around waiting for others to take care of them and not for people who have been blindsided by their government. The larger point is that the current movement to minipulate the market by the government is unfair to one industry while giving unfair advantages to another. If these technologies are so wonderful then their should be a natural rush to produce and invest in them but no one is unless it is for the subsidies and tax credits, and even with these the so called renewables are not cost effective but only give people a false sence of doing the right thing. And if you believe that solar and wind are so wonderful for the environment then you should look into the amount of energy and natural resources that are required to produce solar panels and wind turbine my friend. And while your at it look at ethanol , another environmental mandate from the government that does more harm than good to the environment and which cost more in energy to produce than it saves by using, not to mention what it has done to the world supply of food, but hey let us give government another shot at mandating the market right ?

  32. How do they know that ocean currents ’slowed’ in the 1800’s? Core samples, carbon-dating, etc. C’mon, Rick, surely there is somewhere in your being that you can accept scientific research. Somewhere…take a look…gotta be there, somewhere. 😉

    Europe suffered more from the little ice age than anywhere else. This is because Europe, from the UK, over to about …eh, I am stretching memory here (from reading and viewing…not that old!!!)… Poland-area (I think) is very sensitive to ocean-current-influenced climate. Although the current on their side of the Atlantic is North-to-South, it’s getting the current from a pool of Gulf Stream-influenced water in the mid-Atlantic. When it slows, on their side of “the pond,” it pretty much stops the Gulf-Stream feed and the flow becomes more arctic-source water and the resulting drop in both water and air temperatures.

    On a side note, you are very dismissive with your Beware of pinkish-hued green gibberish condenscending, empty rhetoric. I’m hoping that you are at least willing to listen and not dismiss with a swipe of the hand. I don’t expect you to go Birkenstock and burlap-pants by any means, just a willingness to hear some things out. Not all positions are radical, as I think you see them. There has been environmental damage that really needs to be fixed (go ahead, catch and eat a fish from IR, I dare you, but I will not be responsible for your resulting health), but on the flip-side, getting off of fossil-fuels, I think, is more a need out of tempting fate via a finite (and politically volatile) resource.

  33. Direct question for you RSmitty , just because you were the last to post and because you keep mentioning fossils and CO2 .
    First you mentioned ice cores samples and carbon dating. First carbon dating has been brought into question lately for it’s accuracy. Also as for using ice core measurements of CO2, this could be being done to reflect an increase in atmospheric levels, instead of using data collected between the years 1857-1957 which could show higher levels than today.
    My point being that when there is as much money and power involved as there is in this argument you have to look past the message and ask yourself who gains what from a win.
    Okay sorry here’s the direct question, why not nuclear or waste to energy, if your concern is finite supply.

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