Can the U.S. Create Renewable Regions?

Authors: Joan Fitzgerald*, Northeastern University
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Economic Geography, Energy
Keywords: regional development, green economy, economic development
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Maryland B, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In my 2010 book Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainabilty and Economic Development, I wrote enthusiastically about how states and cities were building regional production a new solar production industry in the United States. Examining the cases I highlighted eight years later, I found that most of the promising solar and wind businesses were out of business. This article examines how these promising companies went bankrupt when worldwide solar and wind installations are growing. A major part of this analysis focuses on China and trade policy. I then move to two ongoing cases of economic development in the wind and solar industries to explore their potential for creating regional growth, asking what has changed to create renewed growth potential. The first case is Cleveland’s attempt to develop offshore wind turbines on Lake Erie, which started in 2004. After many false starts, construction on a pilot program will start in 2018, helped along by Project Icebreaker, which will allow year-round production in the partly frozen lake. Should this six-turbine wind farm on Lake Erie be successful, a new wind-powered energy grid could be developed along the southern shores of all the Great Lakes. The second case is the recently completed Solar City solar panel production facility in Buffalo. Each case offers a different set of challenges to develop renewable production industries in the United States in the face of stiff competition from China and other countries in the case of wind.

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