Given the valley’s tremendous success in recent years with such down-to-earth products as search engines and music players, tackling solar power might seem improbable. Yet some of the valley’s best brains are captivated by the challenge, and they hope to put the development of solar technologies onto a faster track.
“A solar cell is just a big specialized chip, so everything we’ve learned about making chips applies,” says Paul Saffo, an associate engineering professor at Stanford and a longtime observer of Silicon Valley.
For all the debates about the best options for energy independence, I have long felt solar was getting short shrift in favor of other alternatives, even those which are less clean, but more profitable for someone.
I think of our long hot & sunny Austin summers when the direct sun exposure on the west side of our house scorches the paint off the siding. It's free energy raining down upon us. And I love the term "solar evangelist." Count me in.
Optimism about creating a “Solar Valley” in the geographic shadow of computing all-stars like Intel, Apple and Google is widespread among some solar evangelists.
“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.
Solar evangelicals unite!