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‘Green jobs' lose their luster in Lexington

A layoff in Lexington appears to contradict President Obama's initiative to generate employment through increased green energy production. Officials blame bad timing for the decision to cut jobs at PPG Industries, a Pittsburgh-based specialty products manufacturer that supplies to the wind energy industry. The company announced Friday that 110 of the 420 employees at its Lexington fiberglass plant will be let go by June 30.

A layoff in Lexington appears to contradict President Obama's initiative to generate employment through increased green energy production.

Officials blame bad timing for the decision to cut jobs at PPG Industries, a Pittsburgh-based specialty products manufacturer that supplies to the wind energy industry. The company announced Friday that 110 of the 420 employees at its Lexington fiberglass plant will be let go by June 30.

"The challenges that the industry is seeing are related to the credit crisis and turmoil in the financial markets," said PPG spokesman Jeremy Neuhart, who explained that the global economic downturn has led to less funding for the development of wind energy projects.

"Unfortunately, we're having to make layoffs due to the current demand," said Neuhart. The recent job cuts come one week after a similar announcement at PPG's Shelby facility, where 90 positions will be eliminated; A 2008 proposal to put $20 million toward expansion of the plant - and provide Shelby with... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

A layoff in Lexington appears to contradict President Obama's initiative to generate employment through increased green energy production.

Officials blame bad timing for the decision to cut jobs at PPG Industries, a Pittsburgh-based specialty products manufacturer that supplies to the wind energy industry. The company announced Friday that 110 of the 420 employees at its Lexington fiberglass plant will be let go by June 30.

"The challenges that the industry is seeing are related to the credit crisis and turmoil in the financial markets," said PPG spokesman Jeremy Neuhart, who explained that the global economic downturn has led to less funding for the development of wind energy projects.

"Unfortunately, we're having to make layoffs due to the current demand," said Neuhart. The recent job cuts come one week after a similar announcement at PPG's Shelby facility, where 90 positions will be eliminated; A 2008 proposal to put $20 million toward expansion of the plant - and provide Shelby with 120 more jobs over the next three years - has been put on hold.

"If you look at the data, there has been double digit growth over the past couple of years. It slowed significantly in 2009, but things are still going on," said Neuhart. "We (PPG) are still selling to the wind industry, just not quite at the rate we have been."

According to Neuhart, both North Carolina facilities produce fiberglass for windmill blades; domestic wind energy companies are their primary buyers.

"As with any industry or any product, there are obstacles that must be overcome," said Scott Sutton, spokesman for Progress Energy Carolinas. "A number of industries have cut back on output due to lack of demand," said Sutton. "This is likely part of a broader economic story, and less about one particular factor."

According to Sutton, Progress expects to purchase up to one million megawatt hours of renewable energy in the Carolinas by the year 2012. The company produced a total of 61 million megawatt hours in 2008.

"We support any cost-effective renewable resource," said Sutton. "Progress Energy has made two requests for proposals for renewable energy sources, and we received a number of proposals in response."

Sutton said the company has announced three new solar power projects - for Haywood, Wake and New Hanover Counties - as a result of the requests. They also received proposals for bio-mass and small hydropower projects, but nothing from the wind energy sector.

"But that doesn't mean the interest isn't there," said Sutton. "It just hasn't translated to proposals."

He added that Progress will continue to work with a variety of developers on projects that can provide renewable, reliable and cost-effective power. Through its "Wind for Schools" program, the utility installed three wind turbines at schools in Madison County; and curriculum is being developed for the schools to study alternative energy. While the turbines are nowhere near utility-scale generation, Sutton said it's a start.

The program was designed to start a conversation about wind power and other renewable energy resources in rural communities," he said. "Because oftentimes, if someone decides to build a wind farm, it will be in one of the rural communities."

According to Sutton, Progress believes that renewable energy is part of a balanced energy portfolio.

"As with any technology, and especially emerging ones, there are costs that you have to consider," said Sutton. "You have to look at the reliability of the equipment and the reliability of the power it provides as well. We're definitely open to building wind projects, but there are still some hurdles that must be overcome."

While Congressman Larry Kissell said he was saddened to hear of jobs lost at PPG, he still has faith that North Carolina can see job creation and production in green energy.

"Just this week, I learned about a company in Charlotte making solar cells at a drastically reduced price," said Kissell. "I see a lot of potential for this and many other green technologies that don't even exist today. We must be innovators in new energy technologies."

According to Kissell, North Carolina is poised to take advantage of specific green energy markets.

"We have to encourage leaders at the national level to explore options for bio-mass and utilizing animal co-products, which is something the South has in abundance as opposed to wind which is not as prevalent," said Kissell.

"I'm going to fight to make sure the three things we have plenty of in the South - sunshine, bio-mass and animal co-products, make their way into new energy legislation."


Source: http://www.yourdailyjournal...

APR 28 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/20022-green-jobs-lose-their-luster-in-lexington
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