As we know, the Chinese government is extremely interested in the future of renewable energy and has put enormous emphasis on support for the solar cell industry in China and its competitive advantage around the world.
In fact, right now, three out of every five solar panels in the world are made fully in China, and many expect this figure to only improve (from the Chinese perspective) in the years to come. At a recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conference in Golden, Colorado, some participants reported that we can expect a 70 percent reduction in the price of solar panels coming from China in the next two years.
If this comes to pass, it would be a stunning development in the evolution of renewable energy around the world and have vast implications — none of them very good — for the nascent solar manufacturing business here in the United States.
In the midst of this tumult, something very interesting is happening in Claremont. For the past several years, the Community Home Energy Retrofit Project (CHERP) and a related project called Claremont Locally Grown Power (CLGP) has sprung up largely due to the energy and inspiration of Claremont resident Devon Hartman. (see: cherp.net and claremontlocallygrownpower.org ).
This non-profit, community-based organization is systematically addressing four renewable energy priorities, including carbon mitigation, economic stimulus, job creation and environmental justice.
CHERP has accomplished some remarkable things. Among these is the creation of a partnership with idealPV, a new solar technology (see idealpv.com), which promises to bring cutting-edge solar technology to a manufacturing platform in Claremont and Pomona to produce hundreds of new jobs.
This company has developed and patented a new solar PV electronic control technology and new panel architecture, which promises to improve the core efficiency of the solar panels, while doubling the output and lifespan of systems in mass deployment conditions throughout our city.
However, the inventors of this technology, which will not be licensed for use outside of the US, believe the Chinese venture is aggressive enough to dominate the worldwide solar market so that no American for-profit company can compete with them in the future. Those who have looked closely at the Chinese government support for the solar industry in China agree.
The sophistication and level of state support by the Chinese government for this key industry of the future is truly stunning. Only a non-profit, community-based model will allow a US solar industry to flourish and expand in America at the rate that is needed to mitigate and eventually end C02 pollution.
The master plan for CLGP starts with a demonstration of performance for idealPV panels compared to a conventional solar panel array.
This $350,000 project is well underway at Harvey Mudd College, but is still short $120,000 in its funding. Once the demonstration is finished, the factory will be built and solar panels will be installed on city buildings, 6,000 homes in Claremont and many more in Pomona.
This model can then be replicated in cities across the nation. All of this can be funded from sources such as government grants and subsidies, solar array purchases and energy savings—all except the initial demonstration. Community funding for the remaining $120,000 is needed by January 15, 2018.
Don’t let this opportunity be lost. Please help with the financing. It’s easy, and there are several options for any budget. Simply visit claremontlocallygrownpower.org, and use the “donate” button to contribute. Contact Devon Hartman for more discussion by email to email@example.com or by calling (909) 721-8631.
Demystifying Sustainability is an initiative of Sustainable Claremont (susustainableclaremont.org).