At a Friday visit to the Golden, Colorado, campus of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar characterized the bankruptcies and delays that have plagued the solar manufacturing sector as “just minor (and expected) blips for the industry.”
Salazar told Denver’s alt-weekly Westword, “Any time you’re dealing with an emerging future on energy, you’re always going to have successes and you’re going to have setbacks,” he says. “And President Obama and I remain very confident that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Salazar likened the difficulties of the solar industry to the early days of automobile manufacturing, complete with “forward steps and setbacks.”
Salazar’s visit to the lab celebrated the department’s recent approval of the 31st renewable energy project, a 350-megawatt solar plant in Nevada:
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today visited the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) campus in Golden, Colorado where he toured the 327-acre campus’ state-of-the-art facilities and met with scientists regarding ongoing research on the development, commercialization and deployment of renewable energy.
“Across the Administration, we’re looking at ways to create jobs and strengthen the economy – and a big part of that is building a sustainable, clean energy future,” Salazar said. “The innovative research that they’re doing here at NREL is playing a critical role in developing new technologies that can compete in the marketplace. When we talk about President Obama’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, it starts in places like these laboratories.”
Salazar’s visit comes on the heels of Interior’s approval of the 31st utility-scale renewable energy project since 2009 as part of a Department-wide effort to advance smart development of renewable energy on our nation’s public lands. The 17 solar projects, 6 wind farms and 8 geothermal facilities, when built by the companies, will provide approximately 7,200 megawatts of power to communities across the West, or enough to power nearly 2.5 million homes.
These achievements build on the historic expansion of renewable energy under President Obama, with energy from sources like wind and solar doubling since the President took office.
Salazar’s touting of job creation is at odds with the Department of Energy’s David Frantz, who oversees the DOE loan guarantee program. Last week before a congressional committee reviewing the No More Solyndras Act, Frantz told House members that these large, utility-scale renewable projects really could not be counted upon for creating jobs.
“The predominance of our portfolio — and the objective, really, of the act — is to be creating large infrastructure, utility-scale projects; and, by definition, they are not a multiplier for job creation,” Frantz said.
Taxpayer-funded programs, grants, and loan guarantees do not create jobs, noted Heritage’s Nick Loris. He said they simply shift them from one sector of the economy to another. The opportunity cost of government spending is the lost labor and capital extracted from other sectors (ones that do not need government support) of the economy to artificially support the politically preferred ones. Subsidizing inefficient technologies is an economic drain, not an economic stimulator–or a job multiplier.
Yet Salazar remains insistent about the necessity of the program, to “continue the momentum” despite “stumbling blocks along the way.”
“But I’m confident that in the arc of the history of the world, that we’re headed in the right direction,” said Salazar.