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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 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.

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.

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.

...

it would apply once the $340 million factory reaches full production by early 2015 with 450 workers.

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.

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.
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.

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..
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.

...

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.

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.

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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  great news now on to batteries n/t (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pollwatcher, Pinto Pony, G2geek, golem
    •  A better battery changes the world. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pinto Pony, G2geek, B P Pgh

      When we're able to store enough energy to run cars inexpensively and efficiently, we're talking about a whole new ball game.

      •  already there: NiMH goes off-patent... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Gooserock, pollwatcher

        .... it's either just gone off-patent this year, or it's going to happen in the next couple of years.

        At that point Panasonic and Toyota are able do their deal for plug-in hybrid Priuses (Prii?).  Since Toyota is now offering a plug-in Prius, it's reasonable to assume that NiMH is already off patent.

        The issue was that Ovonics (which invented the battery) was bought out by Cobasys, which in turn was bought by Chevron, which then sat on the technology and did not allow it to be used for automobile power packs.  Nice, Chevron, eh?

        As soon as the batteries go public domain, we can expect a flood of inexpensive NiMH batteries in automobiles.  The Toyota plug-in Prius may be the first of this wave.  Probably Tesla are in the game somewhere, their plans for more mid-range cars converging with the schedule.  The cost of the Chevy Volt will come down, and Nissan Leaf, and the new Fords that are all-electric, and the BMWs and all the rest.

        We can reasonably expect a proliferation of electric vehicles on the road over the next ten years, with ranges of over 100 miles.  

        The biggest obstacle right now is the charging connector, where each manufacturer uses a different type due to differences in their charging systems.

        This could be solved with a national standard, and, until all vehicles were on that standard, an adaptor kit that anyone could buy for their vehicle.  

        Clearly standardization is the way to solve the charging issue, and once that's taken care of, there is nothing stopping the widespread adoption of EVs and plug-in hybrids.

        "Minus two votes for the Republican" equals "plus one vote for the Democrat." Arithmetic doesn't care about their feelings either!

        by G2geek on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 05:06:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  On the other hand (0+ / 0-)

    Cheap Chinese solar panels means faster take up rates for solar in the U.S. and the planet gets saved before it's too late.

    History will be kind to us because we will write it.

    by Sky Net on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 05:00:51 AM PDT

    •  Setting the bar Lowww (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pollwatcher

      I get it, but the fact we can't mandate installation of U.S. manufactured solar panels means we lose a major battle-- creation of high tech jobs in our nation

      "A civilization which does not provide young people with a way to earn a living is pretty poor". Eleanor Roosevelt

      by Superpole on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 05:05:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not necessarily (0+ / 0-)

      It used to be the cost of the panel was far and away the biggest cost of the entire installed system.  As panel prices dramatically dropped, the installation costs have become the biggest cost of the system.

      Marginally Cheaper Chinese panels may do little to increase installations, while harming our leadership in the future economy.

  •  Uhhh, Not so Sure.. (0+ / 0-)

    I don't think you understand China's/Suntech's overall strategy.

    April of this year:

    China-based solar manufacturer Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. appears to be beating out competitor First Solar Inc. in the Tempe-based company's backyard, based on the activity at their metro Phoenix factories.

    Suntech's Goodyear facility is up and running at full capacity, with more than 100 employees helping to fill various U.S. orders. Suntech said Thursday that it had supplied 3.4 megawatts of solar panels to Edwards Air Force Base in California, something that wouldn't be allowed if the Chinese company hadn't opened the Goodyear factory.

    Meanwhile, construction has been put on hold on First Solar's massive new factory in Mesa. The company said the facility will remain idle once it's finished in May, waiting for demand to pick up before the lines start turning out panels. If that doesn't happen, company officials said they will consider other options, which presumably could include not opening in Mesa.

    "Waiting for demand to pick up"...

    Chinese officials have flat out stated: "China will win the alternative energy war".. that of course means they will heavily subsidize cutting edge companies like Suntech.

    Second, why are solar panels from a Chinese solar company-- subsidized by a government who is OK with dumping practices and other unfair trade practices, allowed to install their solar panels/system on one of the largest military bases in our nation??

    My understanding is Suntech has sold the majority of solar panels recently installed in California as part of their state-wide alternative energy program.

    Weak, very weak. the fact congress doesn't stand up and prevent this is both astonishing-- and typical. I don't see how U.S. solar panel manufacturers win with the deck totally stacked against them

    http://www.azcentral.com/...

    "A civilization which does not provide young people with a way to earn a living is pretty poor". Eleanor Roosevelt

    by Superpole on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 05:03:52 AM PDT

    •  The fight has just begun; (0+ / 0-)

      Just last week Obama stopped a Chinese wind farm near a military facility.  Tariffs have been slapped on Chinese panels, helping hands to U.S. manufacturers...  And if we get a Democratic congress, they hopefully will take even more action.

      It's going to be a hard fight, but President Obama has given every indication he's willing to fight.

      •  No.. it may be over (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Gooserock

        the problem is our political leadership is REactive; and seldom PRO active regarding crucial matters.

        any actions now regarding solar panel manufacturing are  likely to be too little too late.

        the Suntech panels installed at Edwards Air Force base are not going to be removed-- and U.S. manufactured panels installed.

        the fact is Suntech makes a great solar panel-- at a low, Chinese government-subsidized price-- and with the specific goal (made clear by Chinese officials) to dominate the alternative energy market in the U.S. and world.

        ???

        again, seriously-- how do U.S. manufacturers compete against this, without a similar subsidy/tax breaks from our government? answer: they don't.

        tax incentives for wind power in the U.S. are set to expire this year. with the deficit/debt hysteria in full nonsense mode in congress-- just why should I or anyone believe congress will leave these incentives in place?

        "A civilization which does not provide young people with a way to earn a living is pretty poor". Eleanor Roosevelt

        by Superpole on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 05:28:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Because they put them in place already (0+ / 0-)

          It was a Democratic congress that passed the incentives to begin with.  The question should be, why wouldn't a Democratic congress renew them?

          It's up to you and I to get a Democratic congress elected, then put pressure on them to do even more.

          •  Why Not Indeed? (0+ / 0-)

            you're missing the point:

            I guarantee you more than a few "democrats" are going to jump on the austerity/hysteria bandwagon with the repugs.. just like they did when it was time to declare war on Iraq

            you probably forget: tax incentives for fledgling solar and geothermal industries that were put into place during the Carter admin were dumped more or less immediately after grandpa reagan was elected.

            "A civilization which does not provide young people with a way to earn a living is pretty poor". Eleanor Roosevelt

            by Superpole on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 06:12:24 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  If It's Easy for a Big Box Store Can't it Be Easy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pollwatcher

    for a home roof or garage installation?

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 05:33:21 AM PDT

    •  The solar shingle will be (0+ / 0-)

      The SoloPower PV's may not be ideal for residential installation, but their business model of designing to lower installation costs could spread in the U.S. industry.  That would make U.S. manufacturers far more competitive, and hopefully with a helping hand from the Gov. we can make Solar/Wind a major industry in the U.S.

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