|Wind and solar power in turbulent times
Over the past few decades, electricity generated by solar and wind power has been the fastest growing new sources of energy in the United States and for many other countries around the world.
Despite phenomenal growth, both wind and solar companies have recently been hitting turbulence due to a sluggish economy inhibiting investment, an oversupply of equipment, cheap natural gas prices and uncertainty regarding the renewals of government incentives.
Vestas, the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, anticipates lower equipment demand due to slow growth in global economies and uncertainty regarding the U.S. federal production tax credit (PTC). In reaction, the company has cut thousands of jobs this year both in Europe and the U.S. “Vestas is adjusting its workforce in the U.S. and Canada to address global restructuring requirements and changing market dynamics due to several factors. In North America, our workforce has decreased from more than 3,400 people in January to about 2,600 today,” said Andrew Longeteig, a Vestas communications specialist.
Siemens Energy recently announced the layoff of 615 employees, 37 percent of its U.S. wind equipment manufacturing force. It also cited uncertainty regarding the PTC, a drop in orders due to low natural gas prices and a sluggish economy.
In wind-rich regions, however, wind energy is now one of the most cost-effective sources of new electricity generation, competing with new installations of other energy sources. Overall wind energy costs have also dropped over the past few years as turbine technology has matured, with taller towers and improved turbine efficiency.
But industry experts and the recent Department of Energy Wind Technologies Market Report for 2011 foresees circumstances that threaten to slow new U.S. builds. These include questions about long term government support, a modest growth in demand for electricity, an oversupply of equipment in the supply chain and low natural gas prices. ...read more
Metal theft laws burden recyclers
When three employees of Georgia recycling companies were arrested and charged with violating the state’s new metal theft prevention laws last summer, it provided a graphic illustration of what recyclers have feared. Namely, that the proliferation of laws to discourage metal theft is making criminals out of recyclers who fail to follow sometimes burdensome requirements such as taking names, addresses, driver’s license numbers, automobile license tags, photographs and even fingerprints of dealers who offer them recyclable metals.
“They’re essentially deputizing scrap recyclers and holding scrap recyclers responsible, which seems unfair, and certainly does nothing to stop theft,” said Danielle Waterfield, assistant counsel for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) in Washington, D.C.
The Georgia arrests suggest that this concern has some foundation, because they did not appear to involve any thieves or stolen metal. Instead, they were undercover operations in which a police officer masquerading as a dealer offered to sell metal and, when the recordkeeping requirements set forth by the new law weren’t met, arrested the recycling employee. ...read more