Green Jobs Watch: Solar in Colorado, Small Wind in Michigan

Andrew Burger

Clean tech jobs are on the rise, helping to fuel the new energy economy.

Thin-film photovoltaic solar panel manufacturer Abound Solar yesterday announced the inauguration of full-scale production at its new production facility in Longmont, Colorado. The fully automated facility -- where Abound's proprietary manufacturing process is being employed -- will create more than 300 new jobs, according to the company.

Green jobs spur the new energy economy

North in Manistee, Michigan, developer of vertical axis wind turbines Mariah Power April 14 announced the commissioning of its first high-volume manufacturing production facility in partnership with MasTech Manufacturing. The plant will bring more than 120 jobs to Manistee over the next three years, according to Mariah.

Mariah Wind Breathes New Life into Michigan Industry

Manufacturing of Mariah Power's vertical axis wind turbine will take place in a retrofitted, 30,000-square foot auto parts automation facility and will employ former auto industry workers with experience working with steel, building auto assembly lines and auto robotics.

"I believe we’ve already changed some attitudes about vertical axis wind turbines, by taking our product seriously. There are a lot of people who really want to see a VAWT succeed, they just didn’t think it could be done. The industry is growing rapidly, in very small wind. Environment is now becoming a mainstream concern, and people are looking for real solutions," commented Mariah Power's Tracy Twist.

An initial group of 30 employees have been hired. They will produce 100 Windspire wind turbines a month. Mariah management anticipates this increasing as high as 1,000. Steel, aluminum and other materials used in the manufacturing process will be supplied by local Michigan companies.

“As we continue our efforts to diversify and grow our state’s economy, we are proud to celebrate the opening of the Windspire manufacturing facility and the new energy jobs this will create in northern Michigan,” Governor Jennifer M. Granholm said of the occasion. “This investment puts us at the forefront in the production of renewable energy to end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels.”

Abound Solar Shines in Colorado

Abound Solar's new, purpose-built plant in Longmont will make use of the company's continuous in-line semiconductor equipment, which can convert sheets of glass into solar panels in less than two hours, one of the plant's features that management expects to yield substantial cost savings.

Two of Abound, formerly AVA, Solar's three founders came out of Colorado State University's mechanical engineering program. The company's roots stretch back to work they did there with Prof. S.W. Sampath, who still has ties to the company.

"We have relationships with Prof. Sampath, as well as other professors at CSU. Abound staff do guest lectures in classes, CSU students make field visits to Abound, and we've hired a number of CSU graduates. For us it's really nice to be located in Ft. Collins," Abound VP of marketing Russell Kanjorksi said.

"Some would point out that it's not, say, Silicon Valley, but with CSU and the underlying technology companies that exist or existed here--Intel, AMD, HP and's a huge resevoir of very skilled people with transferable skills and program management expertise. We've picked up unbelievably good employees from the local area as well as from CSU. It's a huge advantage."


Humanity In The Anthropocene


Thomas Schueneman