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China's Suntech, Denmark's Vestas bank on Obama's green energy

China’s Suntech, Denmark’s Vestas bank on Obama’s green energy (Via Business Mirror)WASHINGTON—China’s Suntech Power Holdings Co. has come a long way in the US

since Roger Efird was the company’s sole employee in America in 2006,

operating with a mobile phone and laptop in the basement of his Maryland

home.The world’s largest producer of solar-power modules now has a San Francisco

headquarters with 50 workers. Annual US sales have increased to about $140

million. And in a turnabout, Wuxi, China-based Suntech is searching for a

site for a plant that would bring manufacturing jobs to the US.Suntech’s growth reflects the promise foreign-based alternative energy

companies see in the US, a market buoyed by financial incentives as well as

a commitment in Washington to reduce reliance on overseas oil and combat

global warming.“Most of the renewable energy industry worldwide believes that the US will

within the next three years become the largest market in the world for

solar,” Efird, president of Suntech America, said in an interview.President Barack Obama is counting on growth in wind, solar and other

alternative energy industries to create so-called green manufacturing jobs

that will help lift the economy. Obama has set a goal of obtaining 25

percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources by 2025.Less than two percent of energy in the US now comes from wind and less than

one percent is generated from the sun, according to industry executives and

the Solar Energy Industries Association in Washington.That compares with 20 percent from wind in Denmark, seven percent in

Germany and 12 percent in Spain, according to Roby Roberts, a senior vice

president at Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems A/S, the world’s largest maker

of wind turbines.“The US really hasn’t had a long-term energy strategy,” Roberts said in an

interview. Vestas is “making a billion-dollar bet” that the US is now

poised to become a world leader in wind energy, he said. The company plans

$1 billion in capital investments in the US over two years.Most of the larger makers of wind and solar power equipment in the US are

based outside the country, said Jesse Pichel, an analyst at Piper Jaffray &

Co. in New York who follows the renewable energy industry.“Foreign investment in the states has been increasing both for solar and

wind, and most foreign companies are looking at putting up US plants or

contracting with a US manufacturer,” he said.The $787-billion economic rescue package Obama signed in February includes

about $70 billion in spending for clean energy as well as $21 billion in

tax incentives for renewable energy, said Daniel J. Weiss, head of the

clean energy campaign at the Center for American Progress, a Washington

policy group that advises Democrats.In addition, Congress in October approved $17 billion in alternative energy

tax breaks as part of the $700-billion bank rescue plan. It extended for

eight years an investment tax credit for solar projects.The US has lagged behind countries in Europe and Asia in providing such

incentives, giving some foreign companies a head start, Suntech’s Efird

said.“A lot of non-US companies are well-capitalized and they have a lot more

experience,” he said. “They’ve got a resume that looks pretty damn good.”Suntech says it will decide on a site for its US plant in the next several

weeks. It will initially create about 100 manufacturing jobs. The company

may then look to expand or open a second facility.Yingli Green Energy Holding Co., another Chinese maker of solar-power

modules, in the last three months opened offices in New York and San

Francisco and is scouting for a US plant that would eventually create 300

manufacturing jobs, said Robert Petrina, managing director for Yingli in

the U.S.Suzlon Energy Ltd., India’s biggest maker of wind-turbine generators, has

increased its US workforce to about 850 employees, including about 400 in

manufacturing jobs, from 10 workers four years