Energy Biz - July/August 2009 - (Page 6)
» ouR tAkE Questions Cloud Solar Suddenly, Solar loomS large. The germany, like Oregon, is not the first place you Obama administration would like to boost would think of as suitable for solar. but both invested solar spending 83 percent to energize the economy heavily in building up solar manufacturing, relying on and retool the power sector. sky-high subsidies. in Oregon’s case, SolarWorld — There is a lot to like about solar. i have been interestingly, a german-owned company — recently watching the technology slowly evolve over the past started manufacturing and is the largest solar wafer decade. Some say that it is a few years behind wind and cell manufacturer in the United States. power on the economic viability scale. get it built Q-Cells, the world’s largest solar cell producer, and the cost of generation is free; emissions are zero. has a plant in Thalheim, germany. i recently visited EnergyBiz has carried articles by scientific visionaries the company in germany’s Solar Valley, where nine who believe that solar furnaces solar companies now employ you ArE invitED to rEAD My in the Southwest could provide 3,500. both the Oregon and Blog EvEry FriDAy At www.energyblogs.com/rosenberg electricity to distant cities. Rooftop german facilities have been solar units could decentralize our described as being capable power system, obviating the need for complex distribu- of producing 500 megawatts of solar generation tion and transmission webs. Plunk a unit on a factory, capability a year. store or home roof and plug in to easy Street. an MiT study on the future of coal, published in 2007, but there are some clouds over these scenarios. reported that China was erecting two 500-megawatt Portland general electric’s Mark Osborn, the coal-fired power plants per utility’s distributed resource manager, recently gave week. if the two largest solar me a quick tour of the nation’s first solar highway, a manufacturing facilities in the well-traveled interchange just south of Portland. a world can each produce no few weeks earlier, i was one of a handful of journamore than 500 megawatts of lists from around the world invited by the german solar each year, how will solar government to learn, among other things, more ever gain traction? about the country’s solar manufacturing might. That Forget subsidies. germany included a pleasant dusk cruise on berlin’s Spree has subsidized solar for nearly River — on a cute solar-powered craft. a decade — and it still is not The $1.3 million Oregon project produces ready for prime time. now, 112,000 kilowatt-hours a year, more than one-quarter of europe is slashing solar subthe power needed to light the highway. Pge gets the sidies. Does it make sense to power during the day, and then provides an equivalent ramp up solar handouts in the amount of power at night to help light the exchange. This United States that will largely A pilot solar project lights an Oregon highway is a test designed to help the utility learn more about benefit foreign corporations interchange. integrating solar power into its generation mix. Osborn – even if they set up satellite pointed out that the effort reaped a 50 percent Oregon operations in this country that tax credit on top of a 30 percent federal tax credit. Today, employ americans? at 20 percent of cost — 80 percent subsidized — solar if solar power is ever going to gain critical mass, is viable. One Oregon legislative leader told me that researchers must go back to their labs and rethink lawmakers in the state are getting impatient with the how to best capture the power of sunlight. The focus massive subsidies at a time of dwindling government has got to be how to make the technology dramatically subsidies. cheaper, fast. Otherwise, the sun will set on solar There is another issue worth noting. Oregon power before it ever rises. justifiably loves its beautiful environment and, by extension, all things green. i asked Osborn how efficient his two-football-fields-long array of highwaystraddling solar units are from fall to spring, when rainclouds hover over the northwest. Units that on Martin Rosenberg Editor-In-Chief sunny days crank out 100 kilowatts sputter along at Join A CoMMunity oF BloggErs DAily At www.energyblogs.com 30—40 kilowatts on rainy days, he admitted. 6 E n E rgyB i z July/August 2009
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