the (new) american worker


SolarCity Catching Headwinds, Adding Jobs in 2010
April 18, 2010, 10:36 pm
Filed under: solar | Tags: , , , ,

Office with a view: Foster City, CA-based SolarCity is hiring for a range of roles to support its growing solar installation business.

A few days back, I wrote about the impressive growth in the residential solar market in 2009. One company that has caught these headwinds is SolarCity, a Foster City, CA-based solar leasing company that notably offers “no-money-down” leases for home solar installations. Apparently, more and more consumers are now taking SolarCity up on its offer – the San Jose Mercury News reports that the company added almost 300 jobs last year and anticipates adding another 250 in 2010. A spokesman for the company emphasized that these jobs were full-time, full benefits jobs – in my mind, an attractive transition for all those laid-off home contractors out there.

A quick scan of some job posting boards shows SolarCity isn’t just tossing around hiring claims for good press – they are indeed hiring, for a wide range of gigs. Take a look at Indeed.com, and you can see SolarCity is hiring everyone from installers to sales to brand management – the field or the corporate office – take your pick!

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Obama Talks Nuclear
February 16, 2010, 11:54 pm
Filed under: Washington | Tags: , , ,

President Obama spoke at an nuclear energy training center in Langham, Maryland today to tout programs embedded in the Economic Recovery Act that will ultimately “create 700,000 jobs” in clean energy infrastructure and initiatives.

He pointed to America’s pithy place on the world stage in building new energy economies, particularly nuclear.

“Our competitors are racing to create jobs and command growing nuclear industries,” Obama said. “Jobs will be produced overseas, instead of here in the United States of America.”

The first anniversary of the Economic Recovery Act comes tomorrow and the president and his many advisers are hitting the street to talk up what many regard as limited success in job creation. Once a core White House talking point, Obama’s grand plans for training and development in new energy and sustainable infrastructure seemed adrift just months ago. After the State of the Union Address last month, Obama has aggressively retaken this cause, though his foray into nuclear is a trickier political maneuver – and a questionable one too.



Obama To “Show and Tell” for First Anniversary of Economic Recovery Act
February 16, 2010, 2:24 pm
Filed under: Washington | Tags: , , ,

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the passage of the Economic Recovery Act and the White House seems intent on using the occasion to highlight job creation (or their very own “jobs saved” formula.)

President Obama will host “an event involving Americans from across the country have benefited from the Recovery Act,’’ the White House said today, according to The New York Times “The Caucus” blog.

Despite the persistence of unemployment in this “jobless recovery,” the White House has – to the derision of many – persistently claimed that the ERA created/saved? 2 million jobs. Officials from a laundry list of agencies will fan out across the country tomorrow in community meetings and speaking tours to drive home this claim, The Caucus reports.

I believe that many jobs are simply lost – and if the recovery act saved any jobs, let’s be sure they were worth saving. As Nouriel Roubini reminded us all in an op-ed late last year, “recent studies suggest that a quarter of U.S. jobs are fully out-sourceable over time to other countries.”



Wind Power for the U.S., Revenue for Elsewhere
February 9, 2010, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Wind | Tags: , , ,

NYT’s Green Inc. reported today that German industrial heavyweight Siemens AG is moving aggressively into the North American wind market. Despite the light demand that currently exists for wind power in the U.S., Siemens seems eager to position itself for a potential upswing.

From the report:

“The company expects the global wind energy market to be worth nearly $300 billion in 15 years, compared to a little over $40 billion today. Much of that growth, the company is betting, will be in North America, the company estimated.”

Siemens AG is making an aggressive play for the U.S. wind power market.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily translate into new American jobs, as the report notes. It cites an American University/ABC News report that broke the news last October that “more than 80 percent of the first $1 billion in grants  [stimulus funds] to wind energy companies went to foreign firms.”

I looked through the report – thanks to Green Inc. for linking me to it – and it is pretty damning, i.e., some good journalism! It includes a quote from Senator Chuck Schumer, D-NY, that sums up my opinion on this quite well.

“Very few jobs here, lots of jobs in China. That is not what I intended or any other legislator who voted for the stimulus intended…It is fine that the Chinese make them. But why don’t we use the stimulus money to start building up an industry to build them here, that was the very point of the stimulus,” Schumer told ABC.



Wind Farms Not Hiring
February 8, 2010, 11:17 pm
Filed under: Wind | Tags: , , , ,

One of the focal points of this blog is examining the political promises of job creation through a new energy economy. Personally, I believe this is achievable, and I hope that political showboating doesn’t get in the way of a establishing a real revolution, both for sustainable energy and the American worker. Unfortunately, as this Seattle Times article suggests, there is always one problem: demand must exist for these energy solutions if there are to be jobs to create them.

Despite building more wind power than ever before in 2009 – enough to power 2.4 million homes, according to the Seattle Times – many wind farms report they are slowing or stopping production altogether because of light demand. Even wind-turbine heavyweight Vestas, a Danish maker, has stopped production at its first U.S. plant, opened in 2008. Other firms report they would like to take advantage of the tax credits offered as part of last year’s federal stimulus, but must wait until credit markets loosen and demand for wind power increases.

The article cites as one example Hexcel Corp, a Colorado-based manufacturer of wind turbine parts.

“Hexcel qualified for $8.1 million in tax credits, but it’s unlikely the company will complete more of its facility or take the rest of the credits this year. It might use them in 2011 or 2012, however, depending on demand, Bacal said. When fully operational, the plant will hire about 80 to 90 people.” (emphasis mine)

We know that the limp economy does not make for the best conditions to kickstart new energy projects. Yet, the wind industry also claims that until the Obama administration forms a clear, reliable plan for mainstream incorporation of renewable energies, investors will continue to hesitate on wind.

These sorts of projects need years of planning and support – if the Obama administration is serious about renewable energy – and the president’s recent forays into nuclear and clean coal suggests he may not be – then incentives for investors and users – not just producers – must be created now.

Lastly, training and investment in human capital must also increase. Almost half of all wind turbines installed in the U.S. last year were made overseas. Competitive advantage must be established in some capacity here in America if the president is serious about getting Americans back to work building energy infrastructure. Otherwise, we will continue to lose growth opportunities overseas to countries that have already long made these human and technological investments.

–Mia Lamar