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US Program to Support Solar Panel Production Too Little, Too Late?

Posted By Jeff Moad, August 04, 2011 at 4:17 PM, in Category: Sustainability

In 1995, the US dominated solar panel manufacturing, producing 43% of all photovoltaic panels. By 2010, US share of PV panel production had dropped to 7%, as Chinese manufacturers moved into the market with financial help from the Chinese government.

Now the US government is attempting to respond. The federal Department of Energy this week announced a $50 million, two-year program that, it said, is designed to help US PV panel manufacturers with pilot projects to scale  up production.

"This investment provides a necessary boost to domestic solar manufacturing businesses, encouraging them to keep jobs here and establish America's leadership in the world's growing clean energy economy," said DOE Secretary Steven Chu in a press release.

The new program, dubbed Scaling Up Nascent PV At Home (SUNPATH), is actually part two of what DOE calls its Photovoltaic Manufacturing Initiative intended to drive down the cost of solar energy while supporting US PV manufacturers. Part one of the initiative awarded a total of $110 in financing to three industry and academic consortia developing advanced solar PV manufacturing processes.

The latest DOE PV funding programs follows news that venture capital investments in greentech start-ups dropped 44% in the second quarter compared to record-setting levels recorded in the second quarter of last year.

Are the DOE's PV investment programs models of how the US government should be supporting emerging manufacturing industries? Or are these efforts too little, too late to have much impact?

Category: Sustainability
Written by Jeff Moad

Jeff Moad is Research Director and Executive Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Community. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Program. Follow our LinkedIn Groups: Manufacturing Leadership Council and Manufacturing Leadership Summit


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