Solar energy ramps up in Louisiana, but jobs are in panel manufacturing


Solar energy development seems to be heating up in Louisiana, at least on paper. There are currently 16 proposed solar farm projects, according to ITEP filings with Louisiana Economic Development, mostly to be built on agricultural land.

Despite an initial investment of some $2 billion, however, the planned projects would generate only a handful of permanent jobs, so local leaders are pushing for a more vertically integrated solar industry where panel manufacturing, installation, maintenance and recycling all play a role.

At present, just one of the world’s major solar manufacturers is located in the U.S., with seven in China, but bringing that production to the Bayou State is no small task.

It also may not be the best way to measure the industry’s value to the state, says Don Pearson, secretary of Louisiana Economic Development. At its core, economic development is about the importation of wealth.

“In this case, that wealth is being created for the governing bodies that get the tax millage,” Pearson adds. “So the metric of measuring it by job creation is not the right metric. If your parish is going to enjoy $15 million in tax millage over 30 years, it’s certainly a great way to enhance the services that government provides.”

Read the full story about solar energy in Louisiana from the latest edition of Business Report.