Opinion | New solar energy law provides another boost to expanding renewables

Phil Rausch

Phil Rausch is business development manager at Hemlock Semiconductor Operations in Hemlock

Here at Hemlock Semiconductor Operations, we cheered when Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently signed legislation guaranteeing that business owners and homeowners who install solar panels no longer risk an increase in their property tax bills.  This bipartisan legislation codifies that renewable energy investments will be treated the same way a new furnace, new windows or other energy efficiency investments are treated by tax appraisers. 

As the nation’s largest producer of ultra-pure polysilicon, the material that makes solar panels work, Hemlock Semiconductor Operations (HSC) knows that removing barriers to solar panel installation is an investment in the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. 

I experienced this myself after installing solar panels on my home in 2016 and seeing the direct payback of solar energy. I eliminated about $2,200 in annual energy costs, and during sunny days, the solar panels produce enough energy to sell back to the grid. This energy option is good for the planet as it reduces our carbon footprint. For business owners, solar energy has even greater paybacks due to economies of scale.

That’s why the bill Governor Whitmer recently signed into law makes so much sense. Here in Saginaw County, we sustainably manufacture ultra-pure polysilicon, a critical material for the solar industry. In fact, solar panels made with HSC ultra-pure polysilicon produce more than 20 times the energy needed to produce them. 

In contrast, solar (Si-PV) modules produced with Chinese-made polysilicon components are a lot tougher on the environment, with at least twice the carbon footprint of components made in the United States or Europe. By supporting the American solar value chain that includes HSC, we have the opportunity to protect the environment and provide high-tech, high-wage U.S. jobs here in Saginaw County and elsewhere. 

HSC also hopes to play a role in Consumers Energy’s move to reduce carbon emissions by generating 90 percent of its energy from clean resources by 2040. The utility, which provides the energy critical to producing HSC’s polysilicon, is proving that the transition to sustainable energy is smart business and will enable HSC’s polysilicon to be even more sustainably produced. Whitmer’s action is one more step toward creating a greener and brighter future for Michigan, its businesses and its citizens.

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Tue, 12/17/2019 - 9:43am

Thank you for proving renewable manufacturing is viable and the future. Let Michigan be the leader in this industry. Auto manufacturing and their boom and bust cycles have caused a lot of pain in MI. Renewables are the future.