Monday, May 24, 2010

Progress and Pride: Solar seems like Great Lakes Bay Region's salvation

By Kathryn Lynch-Morin | The Saginaw News

SAGINAW — Over the past six months, the San Jose, Calif.-based solar technology company known as GlobalWatt has been quietly settling into its new digs on Saginaw’s northeast side.

The same 74,000-square-foot facility that once housed Enterprise Automotive Systems — where workers performed processing operations on aluminum engine blocks for Saginaw Metal Casting Operations — soon will be the production home of advanced solar modules and power systems for use by the military, in the aftermath of emergency situations such as earthquakes and hurricanes, rural farming, and other specialty applications.

Since December, when the company announced it would locate in Saginaw, GlobalWatt’s Chief Executive Officer Sanjeev Chitre has been reiterating the importance of the Great Lakes Bay Region’s automotive past and how it will play a role in GlobalWatt’s — and the region’s — future success.

“Without the existing expertise and infrastructure of the automotive industry, we wouldn’t have been able to do this in such a short amount of time,” Chitre said.

While Chitre says GlobalWatt didn’t go out looking for an empty auto plant, he admits the coincidence is undeniable.

“It’s the way the universe worked out,” Chitre said. “It was just a fate.”

GlobalWatt is not alone in its solar or alternative energy efforts, as Dow Chemical Co., Dow Corning Corp., Hemlock Semiconductor Corp., Suniva, Evergreen Solar, Dow Kokam, Merrill Technologies and others are part of an emerging alternative energy manufacturing chain that experts say will forever change the region’s employment and economic landscape.

Saginaw Future Inc. President JoAnn T. Crary said those employers see a benefit in the workforce of the Great Lakes Bay Region. More here.

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