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Monday, June 22, 2009

Solar Can Initiate a Manufacturing Renaissance in the US

After decades operating under misguided notions of globalization, the global credit crisis and financial collapse has grimly and assuredly dashed the notion that the US economy could prosper strictly as a service economy without a strong manufacturing sector. Countries need to make tangible products for a healthy, robust economy to sustain middle class jobs. Unfortunately, the demise of GM and Chrysler characterize the bleak state of manufacturing in the US. Will solar be similar to automobiles or semiconductors with manufacturing overwhelmingly centered in Asia

The Obama administration’s stimulus package offers the hope of a new era of “green” jobs. But just how realistic are these expectations for a boon in high-pay, high-value jobs in clean and green tech? While the US might still be able to out-innovate the world, won’t manufacturing jobs gravitate to low-cost, low-wage locations in Asia like they do in semiconductors, consumer electronics, and many other industries? China already leads the world in PV cell production. How can the US compete?

The fact is, solar photovoltaic (PV) energy is an excellent job-creator, but will require smart policies to significantly benefit both US employment and fossil fuel reduction. Many observers have concluded that solar energy is the most efficient and efficient job creator among all energy alternatives. Every step in the value chain—from the development, manufacturing, sale, support and installation of solar panels--require smart, well educated, well-paid people. EPIA estimates that 10 jobs are created per MW in manufacturing. By 2030, solar energy is estimated to create as many as 10 million jobs, but how many of these will be in the US; and how many in manufacturing?

One of the primary reasons why, unlike semiconductors, solar can be efficiently and practically made in the US are the simple fact that solar photovoltaic panels are large and heavy. While based on the same technology as semiconductors, solar panels benefit enormously from being manufactured close to their customers. The cost of shipping and installing a PV panel today is as much as 40% of the total cost, growing to 60% by 2020. Germany enjoys a healthy manufacturing base in solar and we saw significant investment in Spain as they established tariff incentives. Every analyst agrees that US will become of most of the biggest consumers of solar energy in the world and the natural advantages of manufacturing close to the customer base favors US-based cell and module production.

Another factor that can to lead to job creation is that the future PV industry leaders will be technology leaders and the US leads the world in The US leads the world in innovation and technology. While much of the world leaders in PV production are based in China and Europe, the vast amount venture capital, patents, and future innovations in solar probably reside in the US. North American companies raised $5.9 billion in “clean tech” venture capital in 2008 accounting for close to 70% of the world investment total. Nearly 100 new cell and module companies have been formed in the US. Bridging the gap between innovation and production—or between “invented in the USA” and “Made in the USA”—should be the chief concerns of policy makers at the local, State, and Federal levels.
America’s manufacturing renaissance in solar energy will also require a large, healthy, innovative supply chain of cell manufacturers, equipment, and materials suppliers. With a head start by European and Chinese suppliers, that US-based supply chain necessary for world leadership and job creation is currently behind, but catching up quickly. Among cell and module manufacturers, First Solar and SunPower are among the world leaders today, and new firms such as Solyndra have interesting prospects for continued growth. Many of the emerging technologies in solar in printed and organic technologies, III-V compounds and DSS are based in the US. And, equipment and materials suppliers such as Applied Materials, Hemlock, DuPont, and KLA-Tencor that helped create the most successful chip industry are also based in the US.

The dynamics that led the chip industry to move production to Asia don’t have to be repeated in solar. While American innovations in notebook computers, digital music players, mobile phones, and advanced semiconductors are today all manufactured in Asia. solar PV can be different. Because of the importance of shipping costs, automation and technology, the emergent solar industry can keep the manufacturing jobs in the US--with the right programs, policies and vision in place.

Friday, June 12, 2009

SEMI PV Group Global Advocacy Efforts

SEMI has never been more engaged in public policy efforts, in more countries, in the past 6-months than it has in the 38 years of its existence. The majority of these efforts have been directed through our PV Group at the dynamic solar energy policies emerging in many regions.

The global photovoltaic solar landscape is comprised of many countries making significant contributions towards reducing the world’s reliance on fossil fuels. Many of these countries are contributing to the supply side of PV power--contributing cells, modules, equipment and materials--and a few countries are making a major contribution to the demand-side, deploying PV systems to generate clean, renewable energy in both on-grid and off-grid applications. In addition to tackling supply side issues involving equipment, materials and feedstock, the PV Group has also addressed the demand side with several recent public policy efforts in China, India, Taiwan and the US to expand the market for solar power.

In May, the SEMI PV Group released the white paper, “China’s Solar Future,” a preliminary report containing specific recommendations for a China photovoltaic (PV) policy roadmap. As the world’s fastest growing developing country, China faces a rapidly increasing demand for energy and the country has also been building a massive PV industry representing all facets of the supply chain, from polysilicon feedstock, ingots and wafers to cells and modules. Virtually all of this PV production has been exported. The report recommends an accelerated adoption of PV generated electric power in China to reach global average level of PV power generation by 2014.

Under the direction and guidance of the Taiwan PV Advisory Committee, the SEMI PV Group urged the swift passage of the Renewable Energy Act to increase the adoption of solar power in Taiwan. The plan is designed to increase demand for solar power, as well as boost research and development and support the development of the island’s green energy industries. In meetings widely covered by the Taiwan press, the PV Advisory Committee met with several legislators and government officials to advance the PV policy agenda.

In April, the PV Group Advisory Committee in India announced an outline and vision for the Indian solar market, including growth opportunities, potential socio-economic development benefits, the current market situation, and India public policy needs. The white paper entitled, “The Solar PV Landscape in India – An Industry Perspective,” suggests that India can play a leading role in the global photovoltaic and solar industry. The paper was developed by India PV Advisory Committee, represented by industry leaders from all sectors of the solar PV supply chain. The report was released by Mr. K. Subramanya, CEO, Tata BP Solar at a special briefing for the media, and included strong demands for policies to increase solar deployment in the country.

In the United States, SEMI and the PV Group actively worked to include several innovation-oriented elements of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 1). The stimulus package included significant funding increases for key science agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes for Standards and Technology and the Department of Energy. The bill also emphasized alternative energy with numerous provisions and new spending intended to increase government use of alternative energies, spur development of the domestic market and create “green” jobs. These provisions include the creation of a new manufacturing tax credit, a temporary loan guarantee program, a new DOE program that will provide grants as an alterative to the investment tax credit, and increased federal procurement. SEMI PV group is currently working closely with Congress on the upcoming energy bill.

In response to member needs and under the direction of PV Group Advisory Councils around the world, the SEMI PV Group will continue to advocate, collaborate and facilitate solutions to both demand and supply side issues in the global solar marketplace.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Join us for the World Premiere of 'MEMS: Making Micro Machines'

World premiere of 'MEMS: Making Micro Machines' at SEMICON West

A film by Silicon Run Productions, funded by the NSF, MIG, SEMI and others

Hosted by MEMS Industry Group (MIG)
Wednesday, Jul 15, 2009 (1:00 PM to 1:55 PM) at Moscone Center North, SEMI Theater