President Bush Visits Solar Energy Facility

Solar energy enjoyed its fair share of prime time exposure this week thanks to President George W. Bush who visited a solar manufacturing facility as part of his two-day tour aimed at shoring up support for his new energy initiatives he says will help wean U.S. dependence from foreign oil.

On Monday, he visited Uni-Solar Ovonic’s thin film photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing facility in Auburn, Michigan. President Bush said solar has reached a commercial scale and was particularly impressed by Uni-Solar’s roll-to-roll manufacturing process. “I am very excited about what I’ve seen here,” President Bush said. “I’m excited about the future, because we’ve got great inventors and great entrepreneurs here in our own country, preparing for ways to enable the American people to get rid of our addition to oil. And that will not only enhance our economic security, but enhance our national security as well.” Uni-Solar is among a small percentage of solar PV companies, roughly 10 percent worldwide, that produce amorphous, or thin-film solar products. These typically have lower efficiencies relative to crystalline PV, but they can be cheaper to produce — especially in today’s raw material-constrained market. “The ultimate goal is to have solar technology on your home, and that home will become a little power-generating unit unto itself, and that if you have extra electricity, that you could put it back in your grid, so you become a power producer, but you’re using renewable sources of energy to power your homes and to fire up your refrigerators,” Bush said. “And this is real. I really am thankful that the folks of this company gave me a chance to come and visit about it.” Included in the Bush Administration’s new energy proposals unveiled during his State of the Union Address is the Solar America Initiative (SAI), which proposes the largest funding increase for solar energy research in U.S. history. By 2015, this initiative aims to make solar power cost-competitive with conventional energy. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) President Rhone Resch was congratulatory of President Bush’s visit, but wasted no time emphasizing that helpful Federal tax credits secured for this year and next must be extended if the industry and solar technologies are to truly succeed in the U.S. “That goal is reachable if Congress extends the solar tax credits for homeowners and businesses beyond 2007,” said Resch. “A 10-year extension of the solar tax credits will avoid a stop-start industry cycle, create market conditions that allow solar companies to make more long-term investments that will reduce costs, and create 40,000 new U.S. solar industry jobs during the next decade.” Resch said the President’s solar initiative aims to deploy between 5 to 10 GW of grid-connected solar power — a 20-fold increase, and the equivalent of 20 large natural gas-fired peaking power plants. President Bush’s next stop to promote SAI will be to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) renewable energy research facility in Golden, Colorado, where earliler this year federal budget cuts cost NREL 32 jobs. With the government’s latest focus on SAI, $5 million in federal funding has just been restored and those jobs reinstated at the U.S. premier renewable energy research laboratory.
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