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"Government support for renewable energy development must continue"

Solyndra's recent bankruptcy, on the heels of similar action by two other U.S.-based solar panel manufacturers, is seen as a major blow to U.S. efforts to become a leader in clean energy development. China now has three-fifths of the world's solar panel production capacity. What is more, Solyndra received $535 million in loan guarantees from the U.S. government. In the era of monumental government debt, critics cite this as a prime example of government waste; however, such a depiction would be a gross misrepresentation of the loan guarantee program. In fact, the federal government should accelerate its efforts and do more to develop and support clean energy and greater energy efficiencies.

"Government support for renewable energy development must continue"

A solar array, like this one by SolarCity, is one piece of the puzzle to reaching energy independence.

By Vidya Kale
The Oregonian
>> click here to read original article

Solyndra's recent bankruptcy, on the heels of similar action by two other U.S.-based solar panel manufacturers, is seen as a major blow to U.S. efforts to become a leader in clean energy development. China now has three-fifths of the world's solar panel production capacity.

What is more, Solyndra received $535 million in loan guarantees from the U.S. government. In the era of monumental government debt, critics cite this as a prime example of government waste; however, such a depiction would be a gross misrepresentation of the loan guarantee program. In fact, the federal government should accelerate its efforts and do more to develop and support clean energy and greater energy efficiencies.
 
-- Not all clean power bets will be winners. According to Devon Swezey's Sept. 2, 2011, article in Forbes, with a capitalization of $4 billion, the Energy Department has closed $37.8 billion in loan guarantees for 36 innovative clean energy projects. Solyndra represents just 2 percent of this total. The success of Solyndra's CIGS thin-film technology was obviated by a dramatic reduction in polysilicon prices, the substrate material for conventional panels. Development of new technologies entails complex technical issues; not all such concepts will pan out, but enough will to achieve long-term success. The federal government through the Defense Department and DOE has a long history of successfully supporting new technologies.
 
-- Clean power must include nuclear energy and carbon capture and sequestration. Without these technologies we have zero chance of achieving independence from foreign oil, let alone of achieving carbon neutrality. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2006 the share of renewable electricity including hydro was under 10 percent. That is expected to rise to about 20 percent in 2030. Nuclear plants supply another 20 percent. It is impractical to expect renewables to combine for 100 percent of electricity generation. Solar and wind have to be backed by dependable sources since the sun does not shine at night and the wind does not blow all the time. Finally, there is not enough arable land to grow crops to satisfy world demand for food and fuel oil. The federal government needs to support new, safer designs for nuclear plants that also make more efficient use of uranium ore.
 
-- Innovation alone will not save American jobs. Our political leaders are fond of the American innovative spirit. Indeed, we all appreciate the history of the American century (20th). Yes the light bulb, television, laser and microchips changed the world. However, this is century 21. Innovations are easily copied in countries that flout laws to protect intellectual property, and the associated technology finds its way to offshore manufacturing facilities by the time they actually create jobs.

In the end, this is about well-paying manufacturing jobs, especially in Oregon, where high-tech manufacturing represents a substantial fraction of the economy. Our government needs to provide legal protections to enhance our manufacturing base, and we the people should be willing to pay a little higher price for domestically made products.

Vidya Kale is an optoelectronic engineer and lives in Lake Oswego.

 
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