Submitted by New Energy News Blog

An essay from Canada highlights the role of daring investors in the growth of the solar energy industry.Venture Capitalist (VC) John Walton took a risk on First Solar, a start-up company in 1999 with a plan to make something cutting edge called solar thin film. Walton dropped a quarter of a billion dollars on the company’s experienced, knowledgeable founders. At the end of 2007, the company was worth $5 billion, 20 times Walton’s investment.Chinese VCs in the Shanghai suburb of Wuxi took a $6 million risk on the solar energy knowledge and skills of Dr. Zhengrong Shi in 2001. In 2007, China became the 3rd biggest solar cell producer in the world (after Japan and Germany). Shi’s company,

Suntech, is worth $6 billion and employs 35,000 people.From the essay: “Innovators, investors and even our children understand that the 19-century fossil-fuel technologies are expensive and outdated, and they are polluting our planet…it is time for both the Canadian and U.S. governments to stop subsidizing fossil fuels, impeding progress with clean renewable energy technologies, and once and for all impose a carbon emission cap.”

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Bet on Moore’s Law to capture sunshine and change our world
Reese Halter, May 25, 2008 (Calgary Herald)

Gordon Moore (Co-founder/Chairman Emeritus, Intel Corp.); Deep pocket venture capitalists (John Doerr, venture capital funder to Compaq, Netscape, Sun Microsystems, Aazon, Google, etc.); Vinrod Khosla, co-founder, Sun Microsystems; Larry Page, co-founder, Google; John Walton, heir, Wal-Mart); First SolarSuntech

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VCs are betting big bucks Moore’s Law, predicting the number of transistors on a chip to double about every two years, will apply to solar energy technology.

– 1965: Gordon Moore formulated his law.
– 2007: World solar capacity = 6.6 gigawatts. World coal capacity = 1,000 gigawatts.
– 2013: World solar energy expected to be 75 gigawatts.
– 2008: First Solar has long-term contracts to deliver ~800 megawatts to European and Canadian buyers, 8 times the entire 2006 U.S. solar production.

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– First Solar started in Toledo, OH, and is presently based in Phoenix, AZ.
– Solar presently provides less than 0.05% of U.S. electricity.

– One large obstacle to solar energy growth: Intermittency and lack of proven storage capacity. Technologies under development range from pumping water up hill building pressurized tanks to hold peak sun-generated steam.
– Costs remain high. 3 strategies aim to lower costs: (1) Improve efficiencies of existing technology, (2) develop cheap, next-generation nanotech materials, (3) concentrating strategies on a power plant scale.
– The earth gets enough energy from the sun every hour to generate electricity for the whole world.
– At 9.5% efficiency, a plot of land 300 km square would power the U.S.

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– From the essay: “The cost of outfitting the average home with solar panels is about $21,000 or enough to generate about three kilowatts. Those panels will last at least 30 years…That works out to about $7 per watt — when it drops to $1 per watt, it out-competes coal. But don’t forget, in the U.S., the coal industry receives $20 billion a year in subsidies…”
– From the essay: “To stabilize our climate by mid-century, we must globally reduce our dependency on fossil fuels by at least 80 per cent.”

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