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Posted: February 17, 2008
Silicon Valley Starts to Turn Its Face to the Sun
(Nanowerk News) The New York Times today carries an article on the solar energy industry that also covers Nanosolar, a nanotechnology company active in thin film solar panels.
“The solar industry today is like the late 1970s when mainframe computers dominated, and then Steve Jobs and I.B.M. came out with personal computers,” says R. Martin Roscheisen, the chief executive of Nanosolar, a solar company in San Jose, Calif.
Nanosolar shipped its first “thin film” solar panels in December, and the company says it ultimately wants to produce panels that are both more efficient in converting sunlight into electricity and less expensive than today’s versions. Dramatic improvements in computer chips over many years turned the PC and the cellphone into powerful, inexpensive appliances — and the foundation of giant industries. Solar enterprises are hoping for the same outcome.
The article also quotes Paul Alivisatos, a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, who also has his own solar start-up.
“There’s a lot of money being thrown at the problem and that’s healthy; it gives it a real chance of succeeding,” Mr. Alivisatos says. “But so much of our effort is going into short-term victories that I worry our pipeline will go dry in 10 years.”
The fear of a solar bubble is legitimate, but after years of stagnation, entrepreneurs say the recent developments in the field are welcome. Long ignored by the most celebrated entrepreneurs in the land and now embraced as one of the next big things, solar energy may gain traction because of a simpler rule than Moore’s Law: where there’s a will, there’s a way.