Just about everyone has heard of Solyndra, the solar panel manufacturer that had government backing, and then went belly up. President Obama took a lot of political heat from the crazy Republicans who said he was interfering in the marketplace by "picking winners". Now many politicians would have made sure there was no chance they could be criticized for this again, especially before an election. But President Obama is demonstrating his commitment to America's future by telling the Republicans to stick it in their ear by allowing the $197 million loan guarantees for SoloPower to go forward.
Alternative Energy is the key to America's technical and industrial future, a path out of our economic problems, and the solution to the civilization ending crises of Global Warming.
Let's take a look at SoloPower below the fold.
SoloPower has a unique and promising business model by building specialized flexible light-weight solar panels for big box stores. More about the Business Model From Forbes:
SoloPower makes thin-film solar cells but rather than package them into a rigid panel, its solar collectors are flexible strips. These light-weight collectors are designed for commercial and industrial rooftops that can’t withstand the weight of conventional racks and panels.The price of solar panels is dropping like a rock. But as usual, the Chinese can produce panels (because of their cheap labor) cheaper than American companies. But there's a limit to this. As the price of manufacturing drops, the cost of shipping and installation becomes a higher percentage of the total cost. At some point in the not too distant future, it becomes cheaper for American installers to purchase panels from American manufacturers than to pay the shipping costs from China, unless China tries to subsidize their industry to destroy American manufacturing. More on that in a bit.
The collectors can be installed quickly, with adhesives and tooling used in the roofing industry, and in a dense formation. That means the cost of energy from its panels per area compares favorably to competitors, according to the company.
Thin-film manufacturers, in general, are in a race against time to improve efficiency and lower manufacturing costs to keep pace with the industry’s constantly-falling per-watt pricing. SoloPower’s relatively new technology could make it more challenging to get banks to finance projects.
And what about quality jobs in the Solar industry? Well, here's what it will do for Portland Oregon manufacturing.
Manufacturing jobs at SoloPower Inc. will pay an average of $51,000 once the plant is fully equipped and operating, officials said Thursday at opening ceremonies for the North Portland factory.What I find unique about the SoloPower business model, is they are going after reducing the cost of installation for businesses that thought their buildings couldn't support a solar system and they couldn't afford the installation costs.
it would apply once the $340 million factory reaches full production by early 2015 with 450 workers.
I think this business model can be transferred to the the residential market as well. The cost of the panels and equipment in a typical residential system is now less than 50% of the total cost of the system. If you stop and think about it, there's a lot of labor in installing solar panels on the roof of most houses. There are specialized frameworks that need to support the weight and orient the panels properly, and this framework needs to penetrate the roof of the house which requires water proofing...
So the future of the American Solar industry may not lie in reducing manufacturing costs of the panels, but designing panels that reduce the cost of installation. Another example where good progress is being made is the Solar Shingle. These are getting to the point where they can be installed by any roofing company, and they replace a typical roofing shingle and become part of the roof.
But lets get back to those Chinese business practices. Mitt Romney has shown over and over again that his Ayn Rand belief in the "free market" will trump the protection of American industry and jobs every time. He publicly opposed saving a million jobs in the Auto industry when he said GM should go bankrupt. And when he saw first hand the horrific conditions Chinese workers had to face in order to out compete American companies, he took dramatic action by declaring how good it was to be an American.
The Chinese understand how important the Alternative Energy market will be to the world's economic future. They won't just stop at giving start up companies a helping hand from the government, if necessary they'll go for a full bailout of China's solar industry.
Struggling amidst a severe downturn of orders for photovoltaic solar panels, China’s behemoth solar panel maker, Suntech Power Holdings (STP) was given a $32 million lifeline on Friday.Protectionism? Damn straight! Protecting American jobs in critical industries from foreign unfair business practices should be a priority of the U.S. government, and here is what the Obama administration is doing to protect American jobs..
According to reports from China Business News on Friday, Suntech has about 1 billion-yuan in short-term debts due by the end of the year. In the first quarter of this year, its debts totaled $1.79 billion. The company was unavailable for immediate comment late Saturday, however, to confirm the reports.
China’s photovoltaic industry has had an awful year thanks to U.S. anti-dumping charges and protectionism, and European cutbacks on green energy spending. Suntech reduced its production plan for the fourth quarter and last week they announced they would cut 1,500 workers from the labor force nationwide, something the Chinese government has frowned upon given the ongoing economic downturn.
The World Trade Organization will decide whether U.S. anti-subsidy duties affecting $7.3 billion of Chinese products such as solar panels, thermal paper, wind towers and steel wire violate global commerce rules.I personally believe that we can only stop the Global Warming train that is speeding toward us, when Alternative energy such as Solar, Wind, Conservation... become cheaper than the fossil fuels they'll replace. And the best way to get out of the economic depression we are now in, is to have a massive transition to the inevitable economic energy sources of the future, ALT-E.
The two governments have stepped up WTO complaints and rhetoric over access to the others’ markets this year as the global economic crisis crimps trade. The Obama administration says China keeps its currency undervalued and engages in unfair tactics that have led to chronic U.S. trade deficits and the loss of millions of American jobs.
President Obama has not made this a big campaign issue, but sometimes it's the little things we don't see in a campaign that make the big differences in our future.