News Story

Rosy Solar Jobs Projections Fail To Live Up To the Hype

In the final days of Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s tenure, the state Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth trumpeted the success of green jobs created in the solar industry.

“Total job creation projected of 21,592” the April 12, 2010, DELEG presentation claimed.

Almost two years later, the large majority of those jobs never saw the light of day. Even if they had come to fruition, they would just be a small part of the entire Michigan economy, says James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

For example, the state of Michigan created 218,137 jobs in the second quarter of 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced last week. If all 21,592 of those projected jobs created in the solar industry had actually been created, they would amount to 10 percent of the jobs created in just one quarter in Michigan. (During the same period 200,177 other jobs disappeared from Michigan - part of the constant "job churn" characteristic of a dynamic economy like that of the U.S.)

But those 21,592 solar green job projections included “indirect jobs,” which means those jobs that are created outside the actual company — such as assuming a coffee shop will open across the street from a new plant.

“The political economic development has never accounted for much,” Hohman said.

Clairvoyant (751 direct jobs), Evergreen Solar (596 direct jobs), GlobalWatt (500 direct jobs), Suniva (500 direct jobs), United Solar Evonics (700 direct jobs) all failed to produce the jobs the state projected.

For example, GlobalWatt was evicted from its Saginaw headquarters for nonpayment of rent. United Solar Evonics had paused construction of its Battle Creek project in 2009, according to its most recent annual SEC filing. Evergreen Solar filed for bankruptcy.

All these struggling solar companies were highlighted as success stories in 2010 under what DELEG called “Governor Granholm’s Leadership.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.