As the American automobile industry dies a slow death from making cars that are unreliable and inefficient, plants in the Midwest have been closed. One such Ford plant in Wixom, Michigan is about to be reborn as a renewable energy manufacturing plant. In 2011, the plant will begin producing solar panels and batteries.
The American automobile industry made big news earlier this year when Congress granted two of the Big Three a bailout in the billions of dollars. Ford did not participate in this bailout, but that doesn’t mean the company has not suffered during the current recession. Although Ford is not getting into renewable energy itself, retooling old auto manufacturing plants for renewable energy just makes sense. Maybe renewable energy should have been included as a bailout provision, especially considering Henry Ford himself envisioned a greener future of biofuels and biomaterials. The Apollo Alliance explains:
The 52-year-old factory will be retooled to house three clean energy manufacturers: Clairvoyant Energy of California, Xtreme Power of Texas, and the Swiss company Oerlikon Solar. Situated on a 320-acre lot, the Wixom plant will become one of the largest clean energy manufacturing centers in the United States and has already been dubbed the centerpiece of a green manufacturing revival in Michigan. The plant’s retooling is expected to create more than 4,000 quality green-collar jobs.
Could Michigan become the green-collar job mecca for North America? The state certainly could an influx of jobs considering foreclosed homes in Detroit are selling for only $40, and the unemployment rate hit 15% in September 2009. According to Apollo Alliance, the new renewable energy plant “will create nearly as many jobs as the site had during its peak as an auto assembly plant”. This is good news for unemployed autoworkers, especially considering the average annual salary will be $40,000 per year.
Other ideas were rejected for the closed Wixom plant, including an amusement park. In a moment of clairvoyance, officials recognized a renewable energy plant would provide better paying jobs and have a more viable future during tough economic times. At least in Michigan, solar panels have beat out roller coasters pointing at the state’s commitment to revitalization through a green economy.