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It’s not easy being green: Creating a green economy in Michigan

One of President Obama’s major goals has been creating green jobs. The Washington Post reported that the president has made nearly two dozen out-of-town trips to private businesses focusing on green technologies.

But what are the challenges of generating green jobs? And even if they do everything right, can green companies succeed when confronted by extraordinarily difficult global forces? Need to Know’s Mona Iskander takes us to one Michigan town that’s trying to reinvent itself by going green — because it had to.

Watch the rest of the segments from this episode.


  • Andrew Carvin

    If you own solar panels you are producing your own electricity by harnessing the power of the sun. If you sell that electricity back to your local power company you are engaging in a transaction no different from what your local fast food restaurant does. You make the electric cheeseburger with your solar panel stove, they pay you for it, and then the electric company stuffs it in it’s fat face and eats it. Payment for services rendered!

    Harnessing the power of the sun does not make you a socialist, commie, homosexual, or any other closet bogeyman that stupid people are so afraid of. It makes you an intelligent human being that’s able to understand that if you can legally get something for free then why pay for it? If you can make money by legally getting something for free, and then selling it then why not do it? Anything less is stupid.

    Put solar panels that create NO WASTE, and produce CLEAN ENERGY on your house. You will NEVER have an electric bill again, and if you produce enough energy you can charge it back to the grid, and GIVE the electric company a bill.

    Most states will allow you to make up to $1000 a month or more charging electricity back to your local electric company. That’s a $12,000 a year direct income that coupled with savings from not having an electric bill would net you around $15000+ yearly.


    We should give all the middle/poor class people solar panels so they can charge electricity back to their local electric companies. Give them electric cars too so that they never have to pay for gas, and make sure those cars have solar panels on them so they are always charging. The financial offset alone would dramatically help our economy.

    Of course stupid people would rather you stay dependent on FILTHY energy sources like oil, and nuclear power. Solar power would upset the plans of stupid people to murder the middle/poor classes.

  • Dmitriy Yaroslavskiy

    Excellent points by Andrew Carvin. I have come up with exactly same answers also reflected in now a year-old blogsite
    PBS documentary could have been much more interesting and informative – rather than getting laid off workers to cry on camera, could have dug in and probed things like: (1) why is only 20% of energy in Greenville generated from solar – should have been 100%+ – the town should be able to generate more energy than it uses and 20% sounds ridiculously low – this would uncover what it is exactly that keeps technology and demand from growing exponentially – hope its not “cost” as a number of national companies offer cost-free installations now that still save money overall; (2) what is the real cost and technology differential with chinese competitors; (3) why has the demand dropped for UniSolar?; (4) why did they have to build new plants in Greenville, rather than re-using Electrolux plants – this would tell us whether retooling existing facilities makes economic sense when they are given away for free to manifacturers (keep in mind, that abandoned facilities deteriorate rapidly so we only have a short window of opportunity to re-use them before they become useless); (5) rather than talk about “government energy policy” with green energy targets and such, scale back the rhetoric and put it in plain english terms – what do we need from our government – such as 1) low-interest flexible financing (not bailouts); 2) working program to transfer land and manufacturing facilities to new manufacturers at no cost for foreseeable future (maybe tax profits rather than real estate values); 3) Regulations requiring every company of certain size to install solar panels on at least a certain % of their roofs with no costs to them (get Sungevity or SolarCity to do that on a government mission); 4) Give a workable program to homeowners and landlords to switch to rooftop solar energy; 5) give NASA mandate and establish a prize fund for best new or improved SOLAR technologies and get R&D going and generating patents – I expect efficiency of solar material to increase exponentially with enough competition and desire; 6) ask why Michigan has not placed enough orders with UniSolar to reduce own use of non-solar energy sources – I mean how difficult is it to get at least government buildings switched over and then broadcast benefits and savings ???  

  • Dmitriy Yaroslavskiy

    And by the way, Global Recession is the best time to switch to cheaper energy sources if no-money-down financing is available, which seems to be main problem. Instead of tax credits and breaks, government should offer easy guaranteed financing to every property owner to get the solar solution and cut their energy bills. Government doing it first on all its properties and then switching to 100% electric fleet would be the best and easiest way to start the solar revolution, much better than wasting money on plants in mexican deserts, and such.

  • Kmccoy13

    There are so many residential subdivisions that use public funding to maintain ‘ornamental’ landscaping. Imagine how many people would be able to eat if one fraction of those landscaped areas were instead, planted with seasonal vegetables and fruit? 

  • DirkH

    “Put solar panels that create NO WASTE, and produce CLEAN ENERGY on your house. You will NEVER have an electric bill again, and if you produce enough energy you can charge it back to the grid, and GIVE the electric company a bill.”

    You’re a used car salesman. Solar cells are produced and this produces waste; the inverter gets produced somewhere; and if you really never want to have an electric bill again, you’ll need a large battery bank. Lead-Acid someone…?

  • Ex USO employee

    Worlds largest thin film producer? Not even close, First Solar has 200X the market cap as USO and they have been profitable for years while USO continues to lose millions every quarter. USO’s product is less effecient but much more expensive than the Chinese solar companies or First Solar’s. USO is leveraging their success on their product being lightweight and easily installed. These two issues havent slowed the conventional solar panels growth! USO also intentionally misleads that they are “building integrated” while their product is additive and does not replace any part of the building envelope.  USO has a history of being misleading, whether it is stating the release of a solar shingle, providing a timeframe for their product to achieve a certain efficiency or misleading their employees by attributing their economic struggles to some global crisis. I wish all their employees success in finding employment with a company that is more respectful.