Researchers: Ohio in Prime Position to Fill Green Energy Gaps

News Release Date: 
01.20.11

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio should look to its roots in manufacturing -- and its expertise in developing new technologies -- to spur the state's job growth in the green economy, according to a new Ohio State University policy brief.

"Making Green Jobs Work for Ohio," available online at http://aede.osu.edu/programs/Swank/, was written by research assistant Amanda Weinstein and Mark Partridge, Swank Professor of Urban Policy in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics. It examines the state's alternative energy policies and green job subsidies and makes recommendations for policy-makers to consider.

"When Ohio, or any state, focuses on green jobs, they really should look at the state's resources -- not only natural resources, but its infrastructure and people," Weinstein said.

"To be clear, we're not offering some panacea for jobs creation," Partridge added. "But we hope we're offering a way to think strategically about the investments the state is making."

Weinstein and Partridge recommend that Ohio shift its green energy programs from playing "follow the leader" in developing wind and solar energy farms -- developments in which many other states are leaps and bounds ahead of the Buckeye state -- and instead focus on filling crucial gaps in the green energy system: developing new storage and transmission technologies to put green energy to use.

"Ohio isn't windy all the time, and it's not sunny all the time," Weinstein said. "And really, neither is anywhere else. Even the sunniest spot in Arizona experiences nightfall. The intermittent nature of wind and solar power is a challenge everyone faces."

"What we need is a massive overhaul to the nation's grid that can easily transfer alternative energy from the places that produce it to the places that need it," said Partridge, who also has appointments with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and Ohio State University Extension, the research and outreach arms of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. "And we need improved ways to store the energy that's produced to be used at a future time."

Ohio is uniquely positioned to fill those gaps, the researchers said.

"Ohio is known for its manufacturing capabilities, and we are home to technology leaders to develop the new instruments needed for a smart grid," Weinstein said. And Ohio's strategic geographic position is also a plus: The Buckeye State is within 600 miles of the majority of the U.S. population and of the nation's manufacturing facilities.

"Investing in these types of technologies isn't as flashy as investing in solar or wind energy production -- you can't really excite people by showing them a picture of a wire like you can with a giant wind turbine," Weinstein said. "But it makes economic sense."

Investing in developing new energy storage and transmission technologies would also be a bigger boon to Ohio's economy, the researchers said. Wind and solar power generation are not labor-intensive industries. But the development and production of new technologies would generate jobs across the wage-earning spectrum, from higher-paying science and engineering fields to more modest-paying production jobs. Ohio has already seen some success in focusing on this sector of the new green economy: First Solar in Perrysburg is the world's largest manufacturer of thin-film solar panels. Five years ago, the company employed just 200 workers; it now employees more than 1,000.

"What policy makers need to ask before deciding on where to make investments in the green economy is simple," Partridge said: "'Does this make economic sense?' If it doesn't pass the common-sense smell test, then maybe we should redirect our resources."

Editor: A video clip of Amanda Weinstein discussing Ohio's best options in today's green economy is available below (for e-mail clients that permit flash video) or online at http://go.osu.edu/ohgrnvideo.

Writer(s): Martha Filipic, Communications and Technology
614-292-9833
filipic.3@cfaes.osu.edu

Source(s): Amanda Weinstein
719-331-2012
weinstein.74@buckeyemail.osu.edu

Mark Partridge
614-688-4907
partridge.27@osu.edu