It’s not costly going green

Posted on August 27, 2008. Filed under: General |

From a commentary by Dave Zweifel in The Capital Times:

We had a pleasant visit last week from two representatives of the Sierra Club who wanted us to know more about the organization’s big push to get Wisconsin and its industry base to embrace a clean-energy economy.

Rosemary Wehnes, an associate Midwest representative for the Sierra Club, and Tom Peplinski, a United Steelworkers Union member from Stevens Point, have embarked on an educational campaign to dispel the myth that going “green” is costly to business when actually it can save big money and at the same time boost the state’s economy by creating thousands of new decent-paying jobs.

Peplinski, who is on leave from his regular electrician’s job at a Stevens Point paper company, is particularly vocal about the importance of a clean-energy economy for the future of not only our state, but the nation and the world.

He wants Wisconsin government and business leaders to push the development of green industries here. We have the skilled work force and the technology already exists to wean us off fossil fuels and onto wind and solar, he pointed out. Wisconsin manufacturers should be taking the lead in providing the equipment and supplies needed for the energy future.

If Wisconsin companies don’t, he warned, someone else will, and we’ll be left in the dust of what’s left of the old technology. . . .

Peplinski is right about the state’s future. It’s time for us to return to our can-do roots and not only embrace the future of clean energy, but get involved in promoting the development of new industries here that can share in that future.

Our governor, our Legislature and our business community need to come together and take charge.

RENEW made the same point about manufacturing in an article titled “Wind Farm Construction Explodes While Manufacturing Lags” in Wisconsin Renewable Quarterly, Spring 2007:

Both the Forward Wind and Butler Ridge projects will be built with GE 1.5 MW turbines, while Blue Sky Green Field will feature 1.65 MW turbines from Vestas, the Danish manufacturer. Alliant Energy, which received approval in April to construct Cedar Ridge, has not yet committed to a particular manufacturer, though it is expected to announce its decision in June.

Even if the turbines aren’t delivered until next year, construction crews will be busy this summer and fall grading roads, pouring foundations, building transformer pads, and digging trenches for the underground cabling that will connect the turbines to the grid. Almost all of the site preparation work will be performed by local construction companies.

However, it seems unlikely that the fully assembled turbines will feature much in the way of local manufacturing content. There are only a handful of companies in Wisconsin that fabricate components for wind turbines. Unless this situation is addressed soon, this wave of utility-scale turbines will create relatively few jobs and manufacturing orders here in Wisconsin. Considering the enormous expense involved in transporting large and heavy components such as blades and towers, the paucity of local manufacturing content packs an economic double-whammy for Wisconsin, in the form of higher installation costs and production orders that went elsewhere.


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