Jan 20, 2011

PhotoVoltaic Mfg in the USA was hurt by the Recession

 Richard Branson says that in a down economy many solid industries can prosper but in this recession it has been government or defense backed industry that has come thru the best. Witness the big New York banks that got the government bailout or GM that got the government bailout or those firms making things for the US Military in it's many wars.

Sadly the Green economy in the US has been hurt by the recession since much of it's funding dried up with the probs in state and local economies and a less than ample amount for green in the Obama stimulus bill. 

However China has taken off in it's manufacture of solar PV. Here's a great article below(sadly we forget where we saw this?)

In 2010, Chinese firms accounted for 72 percent of new photovoltaic manufacturing capacity worldwide, according to a survey by iSuppli, a California research firm. Seven of the top 10 module

 Days after  (USA based) solar cell maker SpectraWatt notified New York authorities that it will shut down its seven-month-old factory and lay off 117 employees, China’s Trina Solar announced Monday that it will invest $800 million in new manufacturing plants over the next three years.
manufacturers are based in China.

As Chinese solar companies like Suntech Power Holdings and Yingli Green Energy have ramped up manufacturing — supported by generous subsidies from China’s government — they’ve cut prices and grabbed big shares of the U.S. and European markets.

Trina, for instance, established its U.S. headquarters in San Jose, Calif., last year and began signing deals, including one to supply utility Southern California Edison with 45 megawatts’ worth of solar panels. (In October, I stood on the roof of a 562,089-square-foot warehouse in Ontario, Calif., that was covered in Trina solar panels.)

In contrast, SpectraWatt’s entire manufacturing capacity is 60 megawatts. On Monday, Trina said it would ship 1,000 megawatts’ worth of photovoltaic cells by the end of the year, an 151 percent increase from shipments in 2009.

The company did not specify how much additional manufacturing capacity would result from the $800 million to be invested in a new plant complex called the Changzhou Trina PV Park.

blog responses to the above article include:

I have been building machinery and equipment for the past 20Y in the USA. All this hipe about green energy is exagerated by the press and politicians. If you actually see and learn the technology you will find out that they are very inefficient systems and very expensive. Let’s say a 25KW Wind-generator is massive, big heavy steel plate and big machined parts, lots of copper for the retifiers working at low voltages, lots of maintenance to do also. The price installed $500,000.
You could by a comparable generator at Home Depot for $5,000.00
Similar things for solar energy, they are expensive and take a huge space. Just Wind and solar are not reliable sources to get energy, it is a big waste of time and resources. I think the solution goes to hydraulic energy and nuclear sources where the energy is a lot more concentrated. Water moving at the speed of wind has 1000 times more energy plus it could be controlled and stored. By the way the helium ballons for your child’s party are the byproduct of nuclear reactions under ground.


The policy in the US is messed up. I agree with kc10man and axiom321: unfair standards and inefficient programs are enriching China economically at the cost of our increasing National deficit. But there is more to the picture. Investments in R&D do need to be made and devising a market mechanism such as tax benefits can help but they need to be coordinated and complementary. Piecemeal policies that are temporary are counterproductive and encourage behavior that only has short-term benefits for the individuals involved.
Solar and wind production in the US is not as economically sound as coal. However if laws and policies were coordinated they could be. For example, as kc10man suggested, if tariffs were charged on imports that were not produced to US ecological and social standards, the international market would be more fair. And if tax laws promoting R&D in new energy production were written to last 10 years or more in coordination with other laws, businesses would be able to invest with more confidence. Instead we get consumers demanding tax breaks and businesses ramping up to meet their demand. This demand side push is ineffective when it has to compete with the $400 billion in tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry enjoys. We just don’t see the economies of scale promised or the synergistic benefits a coordinated effort would have and we don’t see enough support coming from the military or the national laboratories.
China, with its’ centralized government is actually MORE efficient in aligning its programs to promote industry. The US could do the same thing while maintaining it’s ecological and social standards, but this would require a bipartisan effort in coordination with State programs. But this is more complex than building an atomic bomb or putting a man on the moon and I don’t think the US faces enough of a threat from China to actually work together to outperform them.

No comments:

Post a Comment