California Becoming a Hot Solar Market

California Becoming a Hot Solar Market

October 19, 2006 Filed Under: Oil and Gas  

Google is going solar. The Internet giant announced today it plans to install what could be the largest solar system in the world at its Mountain View headquarters. It is the start of what many are predicting will be a major shift to renewable energy.

The sun may not be healthy for our skin, but the sun is becoming a viable way for us to beat foreign oil dependency and high energy costs. As a result, solar energy is blossoming into a major industry here in Silicon Valley and around the globe.

Scott Ely, solar energy contractor: “Now everybody’s a potential user of solar energy, and that’s made a substantial difference.”

They’re enthusiastic, they’re believers and they’re committed. One-hundred sixty companies are showing off the newest technology to turn solar energy into power for homes, offices, schools and factories at the Solar Power 2006 Conference in San Jose.

Silicon Valley may play an important role beyond the fact that chips and solar cells both use silicon.

Peter Aschenbrenner, Sun Power Vice President: “Clearly, there’s a lot of energy, financial expertise and technologists here that I think you’re going to see many companies come up in the valley.”

Sun power, in fact, is a spin-off of a chip maker, Cypress Semiconductor. Now 21 years old, sun power is addressing one of the key criticisms of solar energy — low efficiency. It’s showing off new panels that are 50 percent more efficient.

However, solar is a global business. Exhibitors are here from India and from Wuxi, China, near Shanghai, and Germany.

Helmut Gehle, Schuco USA Solar Technologies: “The California market takes a leading role in the U.S. That’s why we’re here, and that’s why we’re pushing our products here.”

California has become a major market because of this year’s passage of incentives for solar systems — the most ambitious in the nation.

Germany took similar steps 10 years ago, setting goals for renewable energy to replace oil and channeling billions of dollars into research. It has also attracted German students to dive into solar projects.

Michael Geissler, Berlin Energy Agency: “This is a big shift, and especially young engineers are very interested in this area, and a lot of students are going into this subject.”

Some companies here are also designing solar systems on a small scale. One emergency power kit produces 12-volt power to charge your laptops, cell phones, run an emergency radio, and even provide lighting when the regular power goes out.

It takes millions of dollars to fund research and development of better solar systems. Many of the smaller companies hope to get the attention of Silicon Valley venture capitalists while they’re here.

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