Monday, December 5, 2011

Mississippi Site of New Clean Energy Factory

"Smart" windows by Soladigm change color to adjust to light
 making it possible to cool or warm a room.

In the fight to entice green manufacturing jobs to set up shop in their corner of America, I always thought it'd be Texas that was going to give California the biggest run for its money.  The race to lock down budding cleantech companies of the future was, for a pretty long time, between these two heavyweights. 

And while Rick Perry and UCLA duke out how much damage the Lone Star really did in Cali job loss, the more interesting story lies in clean start-ups heading off to a state not usually noted for embracing these types of companies.

That'd be Mississippi.  From Dana Hull of San Jose Mercury News:

          Soladigm [a company that makes “smart windows”] chose to locate its manufacturing    in Olive Branch, Miss., after Mississippi offered an enticing package that included a $4        million grant and a $40 million long-term, low-interest loan. The upshot is that 300        manufacturing jobs are being created in Mississippi instead of California. Mississippi has also lured San Jose solar startup Stion, which will build manufacturing facilities in     Hattiesburg..” - Dana Hull, Silicon Valley, Mercury

(Note: The technical term for smart windows is “Electrochromic windows,” which, according to Soladigm’s web site, are so called because they change colors to reflect or absorb light when a low-voltage electrical current is applied. The ability makes it possible to cool or warm up a room and thereby save energy costs).

As Ms. Hull's article goes onto state here, Mississippi is not the only one successfully peeling off new green businesses from the Golden State, which still has a fourth of the nation's solar industry.  That being said, it's pretty interesting to me that a state currently ranking 41st in total renewable electricity generation per year  just grabbed two, count 'em, two clean companies right out from under the state with the highest energy standards, as well as a clean energy public investment fund worth $30 million.

Still, I love this story for two reasons: one, a competitive public investment environment is beginning to develop around the clean industry, and two, states that weren't even on the map a couple years ago are putting enough capital behind their interest to make the frontrunners have to change their game a little.  It may be annoying for California in the short run, but it could absolutely serve their clean energy policies well in the long term.

And hey, I'd rather read about jobs going from Silicon Valley to Olive Branch than from Massachusetts to Wuhan.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

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