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Cross-posted at Eclectablog.com.

Oh, lordy, lordy. This is some very good news. From the President's Weekly Address (video after the jump.)

[T]oday, I’m announcing that the Department of Energy is awarding nearly $2 billion in conditional commitments to two solar companies.

The first is Abengoa Solar, a company that has agreed to build one of the largest solar plants in the world right here in the United States.  After years of watching companies build things and create jobs overseas, it’s good news that we’ve attracted a company to our shores to build a plant and create jobs right here in America.  In the short term, construction will create approximately 1,600 jobs in Arizona.  What’s more, over 70 percent of the components and products used in construction will be manufactured in the USA, boosting jobs and communities in states up and down the supply chain.  Once completed, this plant will be the first large-scale solar plant in the U.S. to actually store the energy it generates for later use – even at night.  And it will generate enough clean, renewable energy to power 70,000 homes.

The second company is Abound Solar Manufacturing, which will manufacture advanced solar panels at two new plants, creating more than 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs.  A Colorado plant is already underway, and an Indiana plant will be built in what’s now an empty Chrysler factory.  When fully operational, these plants will produce millions of state-of-the-art solar panels each year.

Transcript is HERE.

This is an industry and an energy source that needs a kick start. Much of the Recovery Act money that has gone into solar power-related projects has ended up going to foreign companies for the very simple reason that there just aren't that many USA companies to invest in.

This is a huge commitment to USA-made solar energy equipment and components. Meanwhile, right here in my own backyard, University of Michigan scientists are figuring out how to make plastic solar cells that have a high enough efficiency that they can compete with standard silicon and thin-film cells.

A simplified process for printing polymer solar cells could further reduce the costs of making the plastic photovoltaics. The method, which has been demonstrated on a large-area, roll-to-roll printing system, eliminates steps in the manufacturing process. If it can be applied to a wide range of polymer materials, it could lead to a fast and cheap way to make plastic solar cells for such applications as portable electronics, photovoltaics integrated into building materials, and smart fabrics.

I truly hope they are getting some federal funding. Or howzabout some of these homegrown solar efforts:

Light tubes to boost solar cell efficiency

Researchers in North Carolina have developed a way to more than double the performance of organic solar cells by adding a layer of upright optical fibers that act as sunlight traps.

David Carroll, a professor of physics at Wake Forest University, led the development of a prototype solar cell incorporating the fibers. He is the chief scientist at a spinoff company called FiberCell that is developing a reel-to-reel manufacturing process to produce the cells. "We're on the cusp of having working demonstrators that would convince someone to go into production with this," said Carroll.

Investments in concentrated solar power

A California-based startup, Amonix, has received $129 million in venture-capital investments to further its commercialization of concentrated photovoltaic technology. The company's product combines powerful lenses, a tracking system, and solar cells for large, highly efficient solar-power installations. The funding could give the company, and the emerging field of concentrated photovoltaics, the boost it needs for widespread utility-scale deployments.

Transparent coatings to boost efficiency in solar cells

In an advance that could lead to solar cells that more fully utilize sunlight, researchers at Caltech have designed materials that can bend visible light at unusual but precise angles, no matter its polarization. The scientists hope the materials are a step toward perfectly transparent solar-cell coatings that would direct all the sun's rays into the active area to improve solar power output.

And even the Italians are beginning to invest here.

Meanwhile, back in China:

Chinese solar manufacturing as a whole has increased its capacity from two megawatts in 2001 to over 4,000 megawatts.

That rapid growth, fueled by relentless cost cutting, has allowed Chinese manufacturers to overtake those in the United States, Japan, and Germany in less than a decade to become the biggest source of solar panels in the world. Worldwide, Chinese solar panels accounted for about half of total shipments in 2009. And that share is expected to grow this year. Of the 10 largest solar-panel manufacturers, half are based in China. In 2007, U.S. manufacturers supplied 43 percent of the panels for a solar rebate program in California. The rest came almost exclusively from Japan and Germany; only 2 percent came from China. Now Chinese companies supply 42 percent of the panels, and the U.S. share has dropped to 15 percent according to an analysis by Nathaniel Bullard of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

It's time for the USA solar industry to start gettin' it on. This new infusion of investment money is a good start in that direction.

UPDATE: This past week, the White House rolled out a new website called Energy.gov/recovery where you can track investments in clean energy:

Today marks another step toward greater transparency in the DOE's Recovery Act activities. It's not due to any one financial milestone or project groundbreaking, but it’s another step to shed light on the ARRA projects across the country and show you, the taxpayers, how we're spending your hard earned tax dollars to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. I'm proud to announce that the Recovery Act page on energy.gov has been restructured to provide you a snapshot of what your tax dollars are doing in each of the 50 states and 6 territories.

We are excited to share Energy’s recovery story with you and I hope you’ll continue to follow our progress on these projects by visiting www.energy.gov/recovery.

UPDATE 2: I thought it would be good to look at an example of how the Recovery Act monies are being spent on clean energy/renewable energy investments. I found one very close to home for me just up the road in Midland, Michigan. Dow chose Midland as the manufacturing site for its  DOW™ POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingle, a roof shingle that generates electricity from the sun. In addition to help from Governor Jennifer Granholm's administration, they are getting Recovery Act funding:

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)  is currently considering up to $140 million in economic incentives for the plant, which would produce the innovative photovoltaic solar panels in the form of solar shingles that can be integrated into rooftops with standard asphalt shingle materials. Local, state and federal funding will help Dow Solar Solutions to accelerate production plans for the solar shingles already being manufactured in a small-scale market development plant at Dow's Michigan Operations in Midland.

If received, the MEDC economic package will add to the $100 million in investments Dow has already made in the development of solar solutions since the program's inception in 2007 when Dow was awarded a $20 million Solar America Initiative Pathways Program grant by the U.S. Department of Energy.

They did receive the MEDC grant as well as other tax credits.

I'm just sayin'...

Originally posted to Eclectablog - eclectic blogging for a better tomorrow on Sat Jul 03, 2010 at 04:35 AM PDT.

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