Saturday, September 23, 2006

The technology is greener on the other side

Silicon Valley is betting big on renewable energy technologies, notably solar power. Several companies are exploring, designing, and manufacturing more efficient and lower-cost solar cells, traditionally made from silicon.

The AP reports that, for the first time this year, the solar industry is expected to use more silicon than the computer chip industry. That, combined with the rush of venture capitalists and companies into the solar market, is drawing comparisons to the dawning of the mircochip industry 20 years ago.

The potential boom in solar isn't expected to create many manufacturing jobs in the U.S. like wind power hopes to; solar production will mostly be in Asian countries with lower labor costs.

Clean Edge Inc., a clean tech market research firm, predicts solar will grow from a $11 billion industry in 2005 to $51 billion by 2015. Although solar is still more expensive than other alternative technologies like wind power, recent policy initiatves like California's "Million Solar Roofs" program could help bring the costs down quickly.

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