Solar Island

If the Philippines play its cards right and the country takes the steps necessary to avail itself of a timely-opportunity, a prosperous, new possibility exists for the Philippines becoming the location for the next California-based Silicon Valley of the coming solar age – a catchy name begs acceptance – let’s call it Solar Island for now?

The Philippines, leveraging some creative-foresight and focused-campaigning can attempt to prove to the solar cell manufacturing industry the idea that our country is the “right place” to locate their new solar production facilities. We just may be able to literally become the de-facto location for manufacturing much-needed solar panels for an ever-changing world. But we have to act fast and provide the incentives and infrastructure in order to capture the market.

THE WORLD IS ABOUT TO CHANGE

The handwriting is on the wall — the scope of world-events occurring in the last few years has made it very clear – the world needs new, clean energy sources.Given global climate change and its negative consequences – skyrocketing oil prices bankrupting airlines and plummeting automotive sales – countries sending hundreds of billions of dollars to Middle East entities of ill-repute – foreign oil dependence leading to a developed country’s instability quotient – the world is ready for a change.

It’s clear the countries of the world will be turning to alternative, safe, clean, renewable power from new sources in order to fulfill their energy demands over the next several decades. The number-one most likely source of this power should be the sun. In 2006, the worldwide market for solar cells was already at $9.5 billion and growing by approximately 20 percent per year. Numerous companies are racing towards the finish-line to development ever-increasing efficiency factors and streamlined processes for the manufacture of these cells for the huge market about to explode.

PROGRESSIVE GERMANY

Germany became creative way back in the year 2000 when their government adopted a subsidy law called the Energy Act requiring the large power companies to purchase all solar power at premium rates from any solar startup project.This spurred a huge growth in Germany’s solar footprint. While they are embracing solar technology to help mitigate global climate change, a very desirable outcome occurred.Solar cell manufacturing companies and other components prospered tremendously under the new energy act and have put an additional 40,000 Germans to work.

CURRENT PHILIPPINES SOLAR COMPANIES

The Philippines already has important solar cell manufacturing company assets; we host two major world players in the solar cell manufacturing business – SunPower and Solaria.A short bio and Philippine footprint of these companies follows.

SunPower, a publically-traded, high-value maker of silicon crystal PV solar cells, produces cells with a 22% light-to-electricity conversion ratio – these are the most efficient cells made anywhere in the world.SunPower operates two manufacturing plants in the Philippines showing an impressive $220 million in solar panel exports for 2006.This cutting-edge company is currently building a new 250 megawatt all-solar power plant in San Luis Obispo, California alongside an even larger 550 megawatt solar plant to be built and operated by another major player in the solar industry known as OptiSolar.These projects represent an important milestone in U.S. power generation in that PG&E, a major California electric and gas utility, will be purchasing the power and supplying it to the actual power grid in California. These two power projects will provide enough energy to serve approximately 239,000 residential homes each year.

Solaria, a privately-held solar cell company, also operating a manufacturing facility in the Philippines, has pioneered a new crystal silicon PV solar cell production method that is more cost-effective than most others. Last year, Solaria brokered a new deal with the second-largest solar cell manufacturing company in the world, Q-Cells. This cell supply agreement guarantees Solaria access to a huge 1.35 gig watts of production capacity over the next ten years.In 2007, when the deal was forged, this contract represented one of the industry’s largest solar cell deals ever. This cell supply arrangement will enable Solaria to produce well over 2.7 gig watts of photo voltaic modules using its proprietary cell-multiplication technology over the next 10 years – a large percentage of these cells will originate from the Philippines.

NEW SOLAR TECHNOLOGY

The last several years have given rise to several new technologies for the solar cell manufacturing processes utilizing various types of semiconductor material.We will investigate one of the major processes becoming increasingly popular below.

The CIGS process stands for Copper Indium Gallium Selenide and is characteristically a thin-film process for disbursing semiconductor material composed of those same elements named above.The CIGS process (a more cost-effective process companies like OptiSolar use) is less efficient than the standard silicon crystal junction technology, producing less electrical power for a given amount of light energy.Silicon crystal junction technology has been the mainstream solar cell production process for many years.The reason the CIGS process is less expensive for making product is the deposition of the semiconductor material is much easier, thereby allowing for much faster, higher-volume and significantly less expensive manufacturing processes.The leader in this solar cell process is Global Solar who is actually producing solar cells on a flexible base material that is substantially lighter than the crystal silicon method, and can be bent to conform to curved surfaces.

Venture capitalists have poured more than $344 million into five other CIGS-type companies in the last few years.These companies are Nanosolar, Miasolé, Solopower, Solyndra, and Heliovolt.This new technology currently looks like the most probable future process.

COMPANIES WITHIN OUR REACH

There are a host of large and small-scale solar cell manufacturing companies throughout the world pushing to position their company to the forefront of the new age of green energy production.Industry sources say there are over 200 solar cell manufacturers in the world with new startups climbing on board the solar wagon almost every week.

Below is a partial list of some of the more prominent solar cell manufacturing companies in the race to meet the expectations of a world in need of energy independence and green power.

Let’s encourage our president and politicians to pursue these companies with completely eliminated tax and tariffs and other incentives to encourage them to build solar manufacturing in the new Solar Island of the Philippines.

Ascent Solar Technologies, Inc. (CIGS)
AVA Solar (CdTe)
Avancis (CIGS)
CaliSolar (UMG Si) [1]
Calyxo (CdTe)
Covalent Solar (CPV) [2]
DayStar Technologies (CIGS)
Dyesol (DSSC) [3]
Ersol Solar Energy AG (Amorphous/nanoparticle Si)
First Solar (CdTe)
Fuji Electric Systems Co., Ltd. (Amorphous/nanoparticle Si)
G24 Innovations (DSSC) [4]
Global Solar Energy (CIGS)
Heliatek (OP)
HelioVolt (CIGS)
Honda Soltec Co., Ltd. (CIGS)
Innovalight (Amorphous/nanoparticle Si)
JA Solar Holdings
Johanna Solar Technology (CIGS)
Kaneka (Amorphous/nanoparticle Si)
Konarka (OP)
Matsushita Battery Industrial Co., Ltd. (CdTe)
Miasole (CIGS)
Mitsubishi Heavy industries (Amorphous/nanoparticle Si)
Nanosolar (CIGS)
Odersun (CIGS)
Oerlikon Solar
Plextronics (OP)
PrimeStar Solar (CdTe)
Q-Cells (Amorphous/nanoparticle Si)
ShadePlex (Thin film cells bonded to architectural fabrics) [5]
Sharp (Amorphous/nanoparticle Si), is trying to wean itself from silicon by focusing on thin-film solar cells. [6]
Showa Shell Sekiyu (CIGS), plans to work with semiconductor equipment maker Ulvac Inc on research to raise efficiency of the panels [6].
Solarmer (OP)
Solibro (CIGS)
Solyndra (CIGS)
Sulfurcell (CIGS)
Sunpower
United Solar Ovonics (Amorphous/nanoparticle Si)
Würth Solar (CIGS)
Main article: Solar cell

FILIPINOS ARE ALREADY CONTRIBUTING

Filipino engineers working for SunPower and Solaria have contributed greatly in making many improvements to solar cell manufacturing processes.Some of these include streamlined testing and analysis of complete panels and individual solar cells, new soldering methods for solar cell interconnection, automation methods, new manufacturing material analysis, new quality control methods and logistical improvements involving material handling.

Filipinos can use the presence of companies like SunPower and Solaria to attract direct suppliers and venders in order to encourage other solar companies to take advantage of the Philippines as an effective and efficient manufacturing location.If we are going to attract additional companies, an efficient supply chain and logistical support system will need to be improved and assurance for continual growth.Perhaps the Clark Freeport with its many incentives is an ideal area for the creation of a Solar Centric Valley.

In our efforts to attract new companies, we should continue to research new technologies, processes, understand company profiles and their needs, and most importantly, remaining one-step ahead of the game.Only then can we cease the moment and become a viable and efficient manufacturing location for these important energy-related companies of today and tomorrow.

As Clark and Subic locators, let’s put our heads together, talk to the most influential people in power we may know, and work to get the wheels rolling. Maybe Solar Island is the destiny for the Clark/Subic corridor? Each of us can do our part to help encourage this idea and set the stage for a new and brighter tomorrow for the Philippines.If the sun is the road to a more shining future, then let’s follow it.

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