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Industry warms up to solar energy

Posted: 25 Oct 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Google? Nanosolar? EI Solutions? SunPower? solar energy?

Silicon Valley firms have set eyes and interest on solar energy, with Internet giant Google disclosing plans to run its headquarters on solar energy and other firms seeking ways to develop the alternative energy.

EI Solutions, the systems integration arm of Energy Innovations Inc., will begin constructing a solar electricity system for Google's headquarters. With a total capacity of 1.6MW, the search engine specialist's headquarters is touted to become the largest solar installation on any corporate campus in the United States and one of the largest on any corporate site in the world.

The project will involve 9,212 solar panels provided by Sharp Electronics and not by Nanosolar, a startup originally funded by Google. A majority of the panels will be placed on the rooftops of some of the buildings in the "Googleplex" and parking lots. A video showing the plan on Google's headquarters is also available at EI Solutions' website.

Eyes on the sun
With the rising demand for clean energy, Silicon Valley capitalists, chipmakers and entrepreneurs are betting on sun power, said an AP report. "We all realize that green is gold," said Carl Guardino, head of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, in the report. "Venture capitalists are betting with their wallets that Cleantech will play a significant role in Silicon Valley."

Clean Edge Inc., a research and consulting firm that tracks and analyzes clean-tech markets, trends and opportunities, has projected that solar energy industry will grow from $11 billion in 2005 to $51 billion in 2015, prompting Silicon Valley firms to venture into the field.

Clean Edge Inc., a research and consulting firm that tracks and analyzes clean-tech markets, trends and opportunities, issued a report last March projecting that solar photovoltaics (including modules, system components and installation) will grow from an $11.2 billion industry in 2005 to $51.1 billion by 2015.

However, the growing interest for solar power will not necessitate many jobs in the Valley as production is located in low-cost countries, mostly in Asia, said the AP report.

Sunny future?
Despite sunny projections, the Valley's rush to solar also has its risks, according to the AP report. The solar industry needs to cut its costs dramatically to persuade its adoption and use in homes and businesses over electricity.

There is also a projected global shortage of polysilicon due to the business rush for solar energy, said the Clean Edge report. In 2006, the solar industry is expected to consume more silicon than the semiconductor industry for the first time, the AP report said.

- Anna Valmero
Electronic Engineering Times-Asia

With additional reporting from Mark LaPedus of EE Times

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