Westinghouse Solar celebrates 10 years in San Jose

September 28, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Despite recent headlines about the demise of Solyndra, solar energy companies are still the shining star in Silicon Valley. On Wednesday night, Westinghouse Solar celebrated its 10th anniversary in San Jose.

A group of environmentalists and corporate leaders are banking on solar. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a consultant to Westinghouse Solar's board of directors.

"This is the arms race of the 21st Century. We've got to beat all the other nations that are stealing our industries from us. The reason Solyndra collapsed is because the Chinese are subsidizing solar panel development," said Kennedy. As for the U.S. he went on to say, "The subsidies to solar are dwarfed by orders of magnitude to subsidies to incumbents -- oil, coal and nuke -- which are in the trillions of dollars."

The reality is that not all solar companies are going to make it. They either have to evolve or they'll die, like Solyndra.

"I understand the whole issue of Solyndra. It's terrible we're going to lose 1,100 jobs and a half billion in loan guarantees if we don't recover anything. But the cause of it is the panels are so cheap and that's really good for the U.S.," said Westinghouse Solar CEO Barry Cinnamon.

Even Westinghouse admits to making panels in China.

"Competing with China in production is something we're looking at, but not being very successful at right now. No answers to that one," said Assm. Paul Fong, D-Silicon Valley.

Fong is on the Utilities and Commerce Committee and he says the plus side for California is in jobs for solar installations and more money in consumers' pockets with solar prices down 75 percent in the last few years.

"The market for energy is 10 times larger than the market for silicon devices, so it's a huge upside," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. "Solar will continue to be a huge opportunity for San Jose, Silicon Valley, and the state of California."


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