Solar System Developments

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Solar panels on display at the Intersolar North America in San Francisco in July. (Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty)

The SF Chronicle's Tom Abate attending a round table in Santa Clara the other day.  The topic was one familiar to Shifting Gears, the lopsided competition between the US and Asian nations that have no inhibitions using subsidies, incentives and tariffs to boost their manufacturing bases.

"We've brought a knife to a gunfight," said Bill Watkins, chief executive of Bridgelux, a Livermore maker of light-emitting diodes.

Silicon Valley business leaders are shopping for federal support, but they're not alone on this side of the Pacific. Suntech Power, a Chinese firm with North American headquarters in San Francisco, plans to open a solar module manufacturing plant in Arizona by years end. It anticipates putting 75 people on the payroll.

"We did that in part to compete for federal stimulus projects," said Wei-Tai Kwok, Suntech Power's VP for marketing in SF.

• When billionaire super-investor Warren Buffett retires as chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, it looks like a 44-year-old Chinese hedge fund manager with three degrees from Columbia may take Buffett's place.

Li Lu saw Buffett speak at Columbia in 1993 and was inspired to start trading stocks. By 1997, he set up his first hedge fund, and eventually began investing for Buffett's right hand man Charlie Munger. In 2002, Li discovered BYD, a Chinese green tech manufacturer and a regular on these pages. Berkshire bought into BYD to the tune of $230 million, an investment  now worth $1.5 billion. But, as the Journal points out, BYD is Li's one big "home run."

• A big think piece on nj.com notes defense contractors are going green - at least in terms of bidding for federal contracts. All those engineers and scientists at Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, Pratt & Whitney et al are pushing pushed their employers to bid on clean energy development projects from the Department of Energy and other agencies. (That, and cutbacks of $100 billion in defense spending, as well as the retirement of the space shuttle and other NASA programs have encouraged defense giants to diversify their portfolios.)

• Solyndra finally has a big contact to add to the short-hand identifier that always follows its appearance in a news story ... "recipient of a $535 million loan from the DOE." Southern California Edison has awarded Solyndra (through subsidiary Photon Solar) a bundle of 20-year power purchase agreements to build rooftop photovoltaic systems atop 15 commercial and industrial buildings.

Cleantechnica.com notes SCE is the most renewably-powered of California’s three major utilities, and closest (at 18%) to reaching the first goal of 20% by 2010.
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About Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow hosts the California Report for KQED. Over 17 years in public radio, she's worked for Marketplace and KPCC, filed for NPR and The World, and developed a sizable tea collection that's become the envy of the KQED newsroom. She specializes in politics, economics and history in California - but for emotional balance, she also covers food and its relationship to health and happiness.

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