This just in: $1 Billion and 500 new solar jobs in Tennessee

Green JobsNo matter how much their name makes me laugh, there’s nothing funny about Wacker Chemie AG settling on Tennessee as a good place to build its first solar manufacturing plant in the U.S., much less all the solar jobs going to Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 

Just one look at the DOE’s solar radiation map tells me that Texas should be blowing Tennessee (and all the other states) away when it comes to attracting businesses that rely on solar radiation.

The truth is that solar companies WANT to come to Texas. Right now, there is an intense lobbying effort going on in the capitol to get Texas up to speed with other states that have already adopted solar-friendly rebates and policies like Renewable Portfolio Standards, which would bring more solar jobs to Texas. There’s a lot of excitement from legislators too. By my count, more than 70 bills have been filed to help make Texas more attractive to renewable energy manufacturers and generators.

The trick will be figuring out how to leverage Texas’ excellent business atmosphere and renewable energy leadership so that Texans get the most out of their money. With so many states bending over backward to attract solar, wind, and biomass companies and their related long-term, high-paying jobs, it’s going to be important to do something as big as Texas while protecting our consumers at the same time. 

California has done a good job of attracting solar business with its rebate program, but at a pretty steep cost ($900 million and counting) and with not much to show for it – only 300 MW from solar rooftops. Much of this has to do with the state’s almost draconian goals. 

Tennessee and Michigan have done an excellent job of creating strong incentives based on reasonable but aggressive goals that include renewable energy goals, business development incentives and rebate programs. 

Texas has shown that with reasonable goals and good customer protection, we can do better. If lawmakers don’t take advantage of this opportunity while the solar manufacturing industry is still deciding where to locate, we’ll miss out on the jobs as well as the clean energy.  And since we already know what works in Texas, let’s start with expanding the Renewable Portfolio Standard to make sure we bring those solar jobs to Texas.

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