With the U.S. behind Europe in developing renewable energy, how can U.S. businesses capitalize on this fast growing industry?
This post is in partnership with UPS
If you’ve ever seen wind turbines dotting a hillside, or read about a dam being constructed to create hydroelectric power, maybe you’ve wondered whom renewable energy really benefits. With U.S. power companies in the very early stages of developing renewable energy (with Europe and the developing world only slightly farther along), renewable materials providers are positioning themselves to capitalize on what is fast becoming a growth industry.
European companies have been traditionally the largest source for materials that harness renewable energy. The lack of renewable materials manufacturing in the U.S. became glaringly apparent when ABC News reported in February 2010 that although nearly $2 billion from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act had been spent on an aggressive policy to expand wind power, much of that money went to European countries to manufacture the turbines. Still, the American Wind Energy Association claimed there were 39 new manufacturing facilities—announced or expanded—in 2009.
As wind power becomes more popular in the U.S., European wind turbine manufacturers like Spain’s Gamesa, and Germany’s Enercon and Siemens, will continue to benefit. But just as American money went into investments into Europe, the global network shows renewable energy development can be a two way exchange: investing in Siemens may link back to benefit American workers, like those in Fort Madison, Iowa. Siemens Energy, which produces wind turbines there, is the town’s largest employer, with about 600 employees. Siemens says 65 percent of those workers were former employees of companies that had either closed or downsized.
In another example of the global reach of renewable development, in February 2011 Gamesa announced a partnership with Northrup Grumman’s shipbuilding arm to open an “Offshore Wind Technology Center” in Virginia to develop the nation’s first offshore wind industry. Though the plant won’t produce offshore wind turbines until late 2012, it currently employs more than 40 engineers to develop a prototype that could be used to produce offshore wind farms in Virginia, the first of their kind in the country.
Image from Siemens