Monday, May 4, 2009

Alternative Energy Manufacturing

Over the course of the semester, Dr. Webber and some of our guest speakers have pitched the idea of Austin becoming a manufacturing center for the technology required for new alternative energy sources. The basic arguments for creating policies that would promote such industry growth are compelling: Austin already has a high-tech manufacturing market, the demand for alternative energy technology appears to be growing, and Texas as a whole could clearly benefit from an industry that could build into its need/want for new and clean energy.
I find it interesting that this issue of attracting new clean tech industries is getting attention in places other than our classroom. Today, the New York Times posted an article on its Green Inc. webpage titled "Can Clean Energy Revive Manufacturing."[1] The article chronicled an interesting case of a manufacturing firm's siting decision. Focusing on SolarWorld, which chose Oregon as its site, the article discusses various financial and labor related incentives for attracting clean tech manufacturers, including tax incentives and the availability of trained/educated workforce. Based upon this article's reporting, the competition among states to host clean tech manufacturing is already occuring.
I think that a state such as Texas is uniquely poised to capture new clean tech manufacturing, particularly because of experience with similar firms in other sectors of the economy. I would caution, however, that it might be wise to not reach too far in attempting to attract clean tech firms; picking a winner in the renewables race could be a dangerous move. Still, I will be very interested to see if Texas or any other state manages to become a leader in this emerging industry.


1 comment:

contango said...

I think Austin is in a good spot for some types of clean energy manufacturing. Particularly when you consider the similarities between semi-conductor and PV manufacturing.

However, one issue that I think is worth considering is the fact that manufacturing for alternative energy is not necessary that green itself and that might irk the greenies in Austin. Battieries require and produce lots of nasty chemicals, composite turbine blases are not clean, and I'd be interested to see the water requirements for PV manufacturing. I am sure that the lifetime environmental impact is reduced due to the fossil fuel offset but the immediate local impact might be of concern.