Santa Barbara has become over the years a place of reference for technology leaders, Government agencies, industry actors and utilities to meet and tackle big energy problems. One of the highlights of this year Summit on Energy Efficiency was a panel on the Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative: achieving $1 per Watt of installed solar power. At stake is for the US to regain a predominant place in the sector. The US produced 43% of solar cells in 1995, 21% in 2000 and only 6% in 2010.
Some argue in investor circles that the battle has already been lost to China, which has taken over as the largest producer of solar panels. Solar is a $70Bn market and is still dominated by residential deployment with 70% of the 16 Giga Watts of solar cells deployed last year around the world. Despite major solar farm projects like SunPower’s 1.4 GW plant in Malaysia, Germany remains the leader in deployed capacity thanks to a consistent energy policy and an effective network of installers.