Cleantech Strategy: How to Deal With China

American solar companies say China doesn’t play fair, and that makes it difficult to compete at home and abroad. Here is our 4-step attack plan for what companies can do to get ready for their own fight.

Today in Cleantech

It’s time for a news dump on this week’s Solar Power International show in Los Angeles. Where to start? On day one (Tuesday), we got GE’s move into thin-film solar, LG’s $820 million pledge to grow its solar business to billions in a few years, and Hyundai’s giant step into the solar cell business — all driving consensus that solar startups better compete on software and services, not manufacturing. Wednesday saw SunPower shed light on its concentrating PV plans and Lumeta show off its “peel-and-stick” solar roofing tiles. As for today, we’ve got First Solar’s two new factories and Suntech’s comments on the “build-or-buy” debate on solar cell and panel manufacturing gear. Let’s not even get started talking about solar balance of systems

Rooftop Solar Isn’t Just for Photovoltaics Anymore

DSC05878Think of rooftop solar and you likely envision photovoltaic panels. But a group of solar startups are working to put concentrating solar-thermal systems – more commonly seen in large solar projects in the desert – on roofs too. One such startup, San Jose, Calif.-based Chromasun, unveiled its first collector at the Solar Power International conference in Anaheim, Calif., this week.

The 4-by-10-foot collector, called the Chromasun Micro-Concentrator, is intended for commercial roofs. It includes strips of shiny aluminum, made by Alanod Solar, that look like window blinds and use sensors to automatically track the sun. These strips concentrate light 25 times and reflect it upon two pipes to generate temperatures of up to 428 degrees Fahrenheit.
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Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: Renewables to Overtake Energy Incumbents Within Decade

kennedy2Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is no stranger to controversy. The environmental lawyer and president of the Waterkeeper Alliance served jail time in 2001 for trespassing after joining a protest at a U.S. Navy training facility in Puerto Rico, and wrote an article in Rolling Stone claiming the 2004 U.S. presidential election might have been “stolen” as eligible voters were prevented from casting ballots. But at the Solar Power International conference in Anaheim, Calif., on Wednesday, Kennedy called his support of greentech “the most subversive thing I’ve ever done.”

He underlined the power of the coal and oil lobbies in Washington and urged solar and other renewable-energy advocates to start showing their strength on Capitol Hill. The most important thing people can do is get involved in the government, he said. “It’s much more important to change your politician than it is to change your lightbulb,” he said to laughter from the audience. “We need to show our muscle and get tough, aggressive people on Capitol Hill, flying around in solar-power Lear jets or whatever it is. We need to be demanding, ‘Hey, we are patriotic, we are saving this country…and we need to fight these enemies.’ If a foreign enemy poisoned 600,000 children every year, we’d consider that an act of war. We shouldn’t put up with this, and we can’t put up with this.” Read More about Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: Renewables to Overtake Energy Incumbents Within Decade

10 Things To Watch for At the Solar Power Conference

The Solar Power International Conference, which is the largest solar industry-focused event in the U.S., kicks off on Tuesday in Anaheim, Calif, and comes at an interesting time for the solar industry. The U.S. solar biz is in the midst of a yearlong shakeout, significant government spending from the U.S. stimulus package, and growing influence from the solar industry in China. Here’s 10 things to watch out for at the Solar Power International 2009 show:

1). Green Jobs: Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis plans to speak at the event on Tuesday morning and will undoubtedly drop the g-bomb — green jobs. The stimulus package opened up clean power grants covering up to 30 percent of the cost of projects started in the next two years, as well as a loan guarantee program that has already funded at least one solar startup (Solyndra) and investment credits for clean energy manufacturing projects. All these funding mechanisms are supposed to keep the green jobs flowing out of the solar sector. Keep an eye on ways to tap into these funds and boost solar’s potential for job creation.
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If you own a Slingbox, you’re going to love Sling Media’s site — now in private beta, but launching to the public on Nov. 24 — offers a new, web-based way to watch the content from your Slingbox-connected TV. But does more than that: It also serves as a repository for a wide variety of Internet videos — short clips, full-length films and TV shows. If you don’t own one of Sling Media’s place-shifting devices, you may not be as enamored with — not yet, anyway.
slingcom-screenA Slingbox connects to your TV and your home network, and lets you watch and control your TV on any Internet-connected computer. Previously, you needed the SlingPlayer app installed on any PC that you wanted to use to watch the TV, but not anymore. offers many of the same features through its Live TV feature, and it does so without requiring the installation of any software beyond a small plug-in.
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