A Clean Energy Triple Play

Private investment in the renewable energy sector has helped diversify and grow Michigan's economy in the last four years, and has helped turn the state into a leader in green energy.
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Last May, I first posted here about how Michigan would lead the green industrial revolution. Some folks scoffed at that idea. They said I was too optimistic. They said Michigan would never lead in a green economy.

We're working to prove them wrong.

Today, I was in Midland, Michigan, as the Dow Chemical Company announced over $1 billion in clean-energy expansions - which, combined with nine other projects announced today, will create over 17,000 new jobs. In three separate ventures, Dow will help create the future of wind, solar, and advanced-battery technology in Michigan's Great Lakes Bay Region - a triple play for our nation's clean-energy future.

First, Dow announced it is moving forward on a truly game-changing product: It will build a $600 million full-scale production facility for its DOW™ POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingle in Midland. These shingles have the potential to transform the way consumers get power by turning a typical home roof into a true powerhouse in every sense of the word. What makes the product revolutionary is its easy installation - no different from an ordinary shingle. That's why it was one of TIME magazine's "50 Best Inventions of 2009". It's a win for Michigan, for consumers, and ultimately, for our planet.

Dow is also a key player in Michigan's bid to be the advanced-battery capital of the world. Its Dow Kokam joint venture is investing $342 million to build a large-scale manufacturing site to help power the hybrid and electric vehicles of the future. Since we passed the first-in-the-nation advanced-battery credits, Michigan has seen more advanced-battery activity than any other state, meaning up to 40,000 great new jobs by 2020.

Last, but certainly not least, Dow has been designated a Center of Energy Excellence, a program we instituted in 2008 to help make Michigan the North American center of the clean energy industry. As Michigan's seventh Center of Energy Excellence, Dow will partner with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to help tackle a major challenge for the wind-energy sector: making strong, light carbon fiber materials available for applications like wind turbine blades. This is a great opportunity for Dow to find a solution that can be used throughout the wind-energy industry.

The DOW™ POWERHOUSE™ announcement is the latest in a series of solar wins for Michigan. Hemlock Semiconductor, the world's leading producer of polycrystalline silicon (the critical component of solar panels), has invested $2.5 billion in the Great Lakes Bay Region over the years, spurring other development. Also headquartered in Midland is the world's leader in silicon product research, Dow Corning, where crucial research into the solar products of the future is conducted.

Other companies are following Dow Corning and Hemlock Semiconductor's lead. In Midland, Evergreen Solar opened a new solar plant last year, and is ramping up production of its new "string ribbon solar wafer" technology. Last October, Suniva announced it would invest $250 million in a new solar manufacturing facility in Saginaw County. And just in December, GlobalWatt decided to locate its newest solar plant in Saginaw -- choosing Michigan over a competing site in Texas, largely because so many solar businesses are already in the area.

But, that's not all. Since targeting clean energy as a major sector to help diversify and grow Michigan's economy in 2006, we've made great strides. In fact, just since I posted here last May, we've made progress toward turning the green industrial revolution into a reality in Michigan:

•In June, General Electric announced its new advanced technology and training center outside Detroit, where new renewable-energy products will be researched and developed... meaning thousands of great, green jobs for Michigan.

•In July, I issued an executive directive to reduce Michigan's greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, because going green isn't just good for the environment - it's good business.

•In August, Vice President Biden announced over $1.35 billion in Department of Energy grants funded by the Recovery Act for Michigan advanced-battery manufacturers - the largest share of any state in the nation.

•In September, I traveled to Japan and met with key executives considering clean-energy projects in Michigan. My previous investment missions to Austria, Belgium, Germany, Israel, Japan, Jordan and Sweden have resulted in more than 10,800 jobs created and retained.

•In October, Michigan State University restructured its MSU Extension, maintaining its traditional focus on agriculture while expanding its role in renewable-energy projects. After all, now is the time to "Go Green!"

•In December, General Motors announced it would invest $336 million in its Detroit Hamtramck Assembly plant to begin building the Chevy Volt later this year. GM has invested $700 million in the eight facilities across the state involved in Volt production.

•Last month, as the world's gaze shifted to the future of the American auto industry at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Ford announced an investment of $450 million in expanding electric vehicle initiatives in Michigan... including moving battery assembly work from Mexico to Michigan.

We're becoming the hub for advanced-battery technology. Our solar-energy industry is rapidly progressing. This year, we will aggressively pursue companies in the wind-energy sector to give Michigan the competitive advantage that is so successful for our battery and solar sectors. We will continue to focus on leading the way to a clean-energy future here in Michigan. We are building the new Michigan economy, piece-by-piece, town-by-town, in communities across the state. Just click here to see some more examples.

And so, as I wrote last May: "Watch - Michigan will lead a green industrial revolution. I invite you to watch us, encourage us, and join us.

And the doubters?

I encourage them to just try and keep up."

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