Green energy is an important part of America’s economic recovery, but it’s no panacea. Businesses that manufacture and develop solar, wind, biomass, and other alternative power should avoid the kind of exaggerated claims other energy sectors have made.
There has been a mix of wins and losses for green energy, including troubled companies such as Perrysburg-based Willard & Kelsey and, on a national level, Solyndra. These missteps, however, should not indict a fledgling industry that has great promise.
Ohio has become one of the nation’s leaders in clean-energy jobs, with northwest Ohio leading the way. Even so, public officials cannot issue blank checks to upstart companies simply because they’re promoted as green.
Four of 10 Ohio clean-energy companies or projects that got taxpayer-funded loans as seed money have failed to repay the state, or failed to fulfill agreements such as reporting deadlines. The fault lies with those businesses, but the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority, which issued the loans, must do a better job of evaluating proposals.
Every business must cope with different challenges. Solar manufacturers faced a flooding of the U.S. market by cheap Chinese products. The Obama Administration recently took action to level that playing field by imposing stiffer tariffs.
Congress is holding the wind industry hostage by not renewing a production tax credit that wind manufacturers and developers need. Almost every energy industry — green or otherwise — has relied on subsidies.
Green energy has many advantages, but it’s not always the best option. Most Lenawee County residents decided that wind power isn’t compatible with their vision of an idyllic countryside.
Any project that would place commercial-scale wind turbines along the Lake Erie shoreline, especially near northwest Ohio’s world-renowned birding sanctuaries, must proceed with sensitivity. That warning goes well beyond the Ohio National Guard’s proposed wind turbine at Camp Perry, even when the proposed turbines are smaller than industrial behemoths.
The state should consider a proposal from birders to ban turbines within three miles of the Lake Erie shoreline. This region cannot afford the destruction that occurred at northern California’s Altamonte Pass, the nation’s poster child for bad planning and turbine-related raptor deaths.
Green energy has a bright future, especially in Ohio, but only if it’s done right.