Here’s an interesting article by Thomas Friedman. Like him, I’d like to see more solar development in the U.S.
Applied Materials is one of the most important U.S. companies you’ve probably never heard of. It makes the machines that make the microchips that go inside your computer. The chip business, though, is volatile, so in 2004 Mike Splinter, Applied Materials’s C.E.O., decided to add a new business line to take advantage of the company’s nanotechnology capabilities — making the machines that make solar panels.
Applied maintains a real-time global interaction with all 14 solar panel factories it’s built around the world in the last two years. I could only laugh because crying would have been too embarrassing.
Not a single one is in America.
“About 95 percent of our solar business is outside the U.S.,” said Splinter. “Our biggest U.S. customer is a German-owned company in Oregon. We sell them pieces of equipment.”
“We are seeing the industrialization of the solar business,” he added. “In the last 12 months, it has brought us $1.3 billion in revenues.”
The world is on track to add another 2.5 billion people by 2050, and many will be aspiring to live American-like, high-energy lifestyles. In such a world, renewable energy — where the variable cost of your fuel, sun or wind, is zero — will be in huge demand.
China now understands that. It no longer believes it can pollute its way to prosperity because it would choke to death. That is the most important shift in the world in the last 18 months. China has decided that clean-tech is going to be the next great global industry and is now creating a massive domestic market for solar and wind, which will give it a great export platform.
In October, Applied will be opening the world’s largest solar research center — in Xian, China. Gotta go where the customers are. So, if you like importing oil from Saudi Arabia, you’re going to love importing solar panels from China.