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Obama’s Tour of Solyndra Plant Gives Hope

President Obama recently toured solar manufacturer Solyndra’s plant, in an attempt to bring awareness to and promote clean energy. Prompted perhaps by the tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, President Barack Obama took an extensive tour of Solyndra’s facilities, then addressed a select crowd of 250 people at the Fremont company’s new factory. “The spill in the Gulf, which is just heartbreaking, only underscores the necessity of seeking alternative fuel sources,” he said.

Obama praised the entrepreneurial spirit of California and said the Silicon Valley company was “leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.” He stressed the need for renewable energy, giving a nod of appreciation to the Solyndra employees and construction workers for their efforts, saying,  “Every day that you build this expanded facility, as you fill orders for solar panels to ship around the world, you’re demonstrating that the promise of clean energy isn’t just an article of faith — not anymore… It’s happening right now. The future is here.”

Last year, the Department of Energy gave Solyndra a $535 million loan guarantee funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Solyndra was only five years old at the time, and was the first company to receive a loan guarantee.  The company grew rapidly, and quickly turned into the poster child for the success of federal stimulus initiatives.

Solyndra manufactures solar panels that use nonsilicon materials known in the industry as “thin film,”, a technology which has significantly reduced the costs of commercial solar system installations.  Solyndra’s panels are normally used on flat, commercial rooftops and are installed in 200 locations around the world, including New Jersey, where local solar installation company Arosa Solar recently installed a Solyndra system for a major local business

Executives at Solyndra used the visit to impress the need on Obama to spur domestic demand for solar, saying that the federal government could install solar panels on government buildings across the country as a sterling example.

“We drove home the point that solar manufacturing creates jobs along the supply chain,” CEO and director Dr. Gronet said. “His ears perked up when he heard that.”

Solyndra has 1,000 employees and expects to hire an additional 25 employees a month for the remainder of 2010. They are expected to make an IPO very soon.

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So… How can PV / Solar Power Help My Business?

Good question. Let’s have a story, shall we? This actually happened, not too long ago, and describes exactly how a photovoltaic system can bring you cost savings and even turn into a way to bring profits to your business!

The Story of How a Business Stopped Paying for Electricity

…and Started Getting Paid Instead:

Once upon a time, in the city of Lakewood, New Jersey, a business owner was tired of paying stratospheric costs for electricity to light and heat his building. He researched different ways to save on power costs, and finally discovered photovoltaic systems for businesses and decided to give it a try…

The up front cost was a little intimidating at first, but the business owner was delighted to find out that not only would the state of New Jersey support his decision with generous rebates to offset the system price tag, the federal government was willing to help subsidize the cost of installation with grant.

Now the business owner happily watches the electric bill plummet to less than 35% of it’s normal level, while the PV system racks up SRECs – certificates he can sell for over $600 each! The system he installed at his Lakewood business will be completely paid off in four years – but will operate efficiently for twenty or more, and continue earning SRECs each year for a steady revenue stream that more than offsets the company’s remaining electric bill.

This true story was made possible by Arosa Solar, a major installer of photovoltaic systems for businesses and homes in and around new Jersey for years. Shimmy Tessler, the company spokesperson commented:

“Most people have no idea how inexpensive it really is to get a system installed and running. The state of New Jersey, the federal government, they both are serious about helping people get these types of systems in place. In five years, there are going to be hundreds of people looking at their energy costs and comparing themselves to businesses who made the move now, and who are now earning money from power instead of the utility company eating their profits.”

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New Jersey PV More Accessible than Ever

Home and business owners in New Jersey and other leading solar energy states can look forward to yet another drop in pricing for photovoltaic systems in 2010.

PV systems have been increasing in number as the benefits and incentives become available to home and business owners. However, although the rate of growth has been tremendous over the past ten years, it has been constrained by the shortage of manufacturing capacity for purified polysilicon. This material is what makes up the semiconductor chips in PV systems, and in 2006, for the first time, over 50% of the world’s polysilicon was used to produce solar PV cells.

Supply shortages have forced many manufacturers to develop ways to use polysilicon more efficiently. New technology that does not depend on purified silicon allows thin film cells and amorphous silicon to be used instead, reducing overall costs. Thin film cells were initially not efficient enough to compete with conventional cells, but have been redesigned to make PV panels cheaper to manufacture.

In 2008, polysilicon supply to the solar industry grew by 127% in megawatt terms. The US contributed substantially to this figure; over 43% of the world’s supplies came from the United States.

For New Jersey, where alternative power is becoming the avenue more and more business owners are taking, PV costs continue to drop. Thanks to the reduction in cost for thin cell materials and the generous incentives offered by state and federal agencies, photovoltaic systems can now be installed with small upfront investments, and be completely paid off in short order (recent projections showed that a business installing a 40+ kw system could be free and clear in less than five years.

“The average price for a PV module, excluding installation and other system costs, has dropped from almost $100 per watt in 1975 to less than $4 per watt at the end of 2006. With expanding polysilicon supplies, average PV prices are projected to drop to $2 per watt in 2010.

For thin-film PV alone, production costs are expected to reach $1 per watt in 2010, at which point solar PV will become competitive with coal-fired electricity. With concerns about rising oil prices and climate change spawning political momentum for renewable energy, solar electricity is poised to take a prominent position in the global energy economy.” *

(* Earth Policy Institute)

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