CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina may not be gathering much wind power, but the surging demand for renewable energy is still benefiting the state.
PPG Industries near Shelby, which cut hundreds of jobs while competing with China to manufacture fiberglass several years ago, is now spending $20 million over three years to manufacture the product for windmill blades. The American Wind Energy Association, a nonprofit that promotes the industry, says factories in the Carolinas are perfect for making the windmill tools.
''It probably lets us hold on to jobs,'' said Greg McInnis, PPG's production manager. ''The North American wind energy market is growing.''
McInnis said demand for the blade material is growing by 30 percent each year.
General Electric saved jobs at its plant in Greenville, S.C. in 2005 by adding wind-powered turbines to its line of gas-fired turbines and jet engine parts.
Government mandates are helping drive demand for renewable energy, such as solar and wind power. North Carolina's state senate passed a bill last week that would require 12.5 percent of power come from renewable energy.
However, North Carolina law forbids the development of wind turbines at mountain ridgelines, where they might operate most effectively. And some local communities, such as Blowing Rock, are banning or considering bans, saying the windmills are unsightly and noisy.
But manufacturing hubs in the Carolinas—facilities that have lost jobs in recent years—provide the industry with a work force.