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Intel is seeing the sunny side of things

Investment and interest in solar energy is perking up at a torrid pace.  From San Francisco's huge new grant program to a new 280 MW plant in Arizona's desert, the solar industry is reveling in this resurgence and newfound enthusiasm.  Following with this trend, the most successful manufacturer of consumer microprocessors, Intel, is looking to do its part to get solar power going in a big way.

Intel's New Business Initiatives is spinning off one of its most promising units, a solar startup, in order to help it obtain the investments that it needs to become a leader in the industry.  The new company is named SpectraWatt Inc.  Leading the initial investment round is Intel Capital, Intel's global investment organization, with a $50 million investment.  Joining Intel is a powerful coalition of power corporations and interests, including Cogentrix Energy, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., PCG Clean Energy and Technology Fund ("CETF") and Solon AG.

The business side of the transaction is expected be wrapped up by the end of Q2 2008, leaving the company to get down to its primary business -- the manufacturing of photovoltaic solar cells.  The company will mass produce the cells, which it will sell to panel makers.  Intel's hand is a logical one as making the silicon-based photovoltaics is similar, on a most basic manufacturing level, to making computer chips.

The company will focus especially on improving manufacturing processes and capabilities to bring down costs of the cells.  It will also focus to a lesser extent on advanced solar technologies, to improve efficiencies, to improve the value of the cells sold.  All these efforts will take place at the company's new manufacturing and technology center in Oregon, which will begin to be constructed by the end of Q2 2008 and is expected to be complete and start shipping units by mid-2009. 

Arvind Sodhani, president of Intel Capital and Intel executive vice president says the new solar company is a fine example of Intel's leading influence.  He states, "SpectraWatt is a great example of technology resulting from entrepreneurial efforts inside Intel.  This is an important investment for Intel Capital in the growing cleantech sector and we look forward to working with the company to support its expansion."

On a most basic level, photovoltaic cells are the "circuit" part of solar panels which convert sunlight to energy, via the photoelectric effect.  Photon Consulting, which tracks the market estimated than in 2007 the market for solar products amounted to $30 billion, up a whopping 50 percent from 2006.  All this amazing growth is even more unbelievable, when one considers that currently on a per kilowatt basis, solar power costs twice the price of traditional fossil fuel power, with capital expenses factored in.  This cost is expected to drop to a dead heat within a few years, bringing with it a strong 30 to 40 percent yearly growth.

Intel's latest effort is just one more step in its campaign to be "green" and promote environmental responsibility.  It is on track to reduce its total carbon emissions by 30 percent between 2004 and 2010.  It also eliminated lead and halogens from many of its microprocessors.  Intel rests atop the Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power list as the largest purchaser of green energy credits.

Andrew B. Wilson, SpectraWatt CEO and former general manager in the Intel New Business Initiatives group praises Intel's work, saying, "The formation of SpectraWatt is an important step forward in the renewable energy market.  We are pleased to work with these companies in the goal of moving toward long-term national energy independence."

Thomas Krupke, CEO of SOLON AG, a large European photovoltaic cell manufacturer says the new company is extremely promising and has a bright future ahead.  He states, "We are very proud to be part of this exciting new venture.  With the experience and commitment of all companies involved, we are confident to reach our common goal -- advancing solar technology to a new stage."



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hey... want to buy a watt?
By Cheapshot on 6/17/2008 3:25:10 PM , Rating: 2
I can see in about 20 to 25 years people all over the US and Canada with Solar panels trying to sell back power to the power companies. With nearly every household, apartment complex, townhome, condo covered with photovoltaics there would be a surplus of electricity.

Electricity should be free by that time since the only place to sell it would be online to third world countries.

Should be interesting times to come.




RE: hey... want to buy a watt?
By JustTom on 6/17/2008 7:07:13 PM , Rating: 2
I think what will happen is electricity use will increase. To me electricy is very much like highways, demand will swell to fill all available supplies.


RE: hey... want to buy a watt?
By Jedi2155 on 6/17/2008 11:02:36 PM , Rating: 2
You can do so much with it! Such as make hydrogen through electrolysis with water thus fuel our vehicles.

If electricity became cheap, then a hydrogen economy would be far more feasible. I would love that to happen, but of course photovoltaics aren't that cheap.


RE: hey... want to buy a watt?
By nah on 6/18/2008 3:07:27 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
All this amazing growth is even more unbelievable, when one considers that currently on a per kilowatt basis, solar power costs twice the price of traditional fossil fuel power, with capital expenses factored in. This cost is expected to drop to a dead heat within a few years, bringing with it a strong 30 to 40 percent yearly growth.


Third World countries have some of the highest solar insolation areas--i.e. they receive a lot of solar energy/sq metre--i believe the Sahara alone could power Europe and Africa combined--the Arabian desert could do the same for the Middle East, the Thar and Gobi for South and East Asia--all at energy consumption levels equivalent to American annual usage @ 7819 kg of oil equivalent--multiply that by 41 MJ to get the joule figure


RE: hey... want to buy a watt?
By wordsworm on 6/18/2008 6:27:40 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
I can see in about 20 to 25 years people all over the US and Canada with Solar panels trying to sell back power to the power companies. With nearly every household, apartment complex, townhome, condo covered with photovoltaics there would be a surplus of electricity.


One interesting thing could be a sort of co-op fueling station. Concept would be that the electrical lines would be owned by the public. A group of the public could route their excess solar/wind power to a co-op fueling station which converts electricity to hydrogen.

Solar really turns me on. It's the most interesting energy source. It can coat windows, building exteriors, cars, maybe it could even be made strong enough to become the sidewalks we walk on and the streets we drive on.

If these carbon taxes come about, those taxes should go towards subsidizing those who use solar/wind power at their homes. They should also stop subsidizing oil and start taxing them for a change and use those taxes to help offset home and business owners personal solar projects.

Anyways, I'm with you all the way.


RE: hey... want to buy a watt?
By RocketChild on 6/18/2008 8:58:19 AM , Rating: 2
You know the local government will want to find a way to milk money from citizens and give it to electric companies that have built infrastructure in their area. I foresee people getting taxed on their property taxes on the amount of Kilowatt hours they produce from their own systems.

And if a technology comes along that you can produce your own hydrogen fuel at home...there is more money that will be lost from gas taxes.


RE: hey... want to buy a watt?
By wordsworm on 6/18/2008 5:52:39 PM , Rating: 2
In British Columbia, Canada, you can install your own water generator - while HydroBC can come in and put a meter on it. I guess it would be SolarBC (future monopoly) which would charge people for having solar power.


RE: hey... want to buy a watt?
By The Irish Patient on 6/18/2008 5:37:02 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
With nearly every household, apartment complex, townhouse, condo covered with photovoltaics there would be a surplus of electricity. Electricity should be free by that time since the only place to sell it would be online to third world countries.


There will be good news and there will be bad news in your vision of the future. The good news is that electricity will be free from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The bad news is that there will be no electricity available at any price during peak demand, from 6:00 to 11:00 p.m.

I'd be a lot more impressed if I saw a DT article about some major new initiative for high density, low cost storage.


By The Irish Patient on 6/18/2008 5:46:43 PM , Rating: 2
Spoke too soon. I'd like to hear Masher's take on this:

http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=12110


"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer














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