February 26, 2007

Mapping A Solar Energy Strategy

By: by Larry Rulison, Business Writer, Times Union


ALBANY -- Solar energy experts gathered at the University at Albany this week to create a business and technology "road map" for the solar industry in New York state.

Pradeep Haldar, director of the Energy and Environmental Technology Applications Center, said the goal will be to make New York state a leader again in solar energy -- as it was 10 to 15 years ago.

"We need to get our act together because the opportunities are substantial," he said at the gathering hosted by Haldar's center, which is at UAlbany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. "It's the largest growing energy business out there today."

Christine Donovan, executive vice president of the New York Solar Energy Industries Association, said the map will outline what steps political and policy leaders need to take to encourage more solar installations and manufacturing in the state.

That could include incentive programs and new tax structures.

About 25 people from a collection of companies, including General Electric Co. and BP Solar, attended the event, which featured a discussion with executives and policy experts. Donovan's association and New Energy New York, both energy company trade groups, also participated.

Haldar said the group would likely write a policy paper that would outline its goals and what needs to happen for the solar industry to prosper in the state.

Haldar said states such as California and New Jersey are ahead of New York in terms of the number of solar electric system installations at homes and businesses. And Germany and Japan account for about 70 percent of the worldwide market, estimated at $20 billion a year.

Locally, one of the most promising solar manufacturers is DayStar Technologies Inc. of Halfmoon, which makes thin-film solar cells, although the company has yet to turn a profit. The state lured DayStar to Saratoga County from California with $11 million in incentives.

The gathering also included Richard Perez, a research professor and senior research associate at the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center at UAlbany. Perez is one of the top solar energy scientists in the world.

Perez says New York not only has a big opportunity to add solar electric generation, but more solar energy is available here than in other places in the world that dominate the market.

"There is more sun here in New York than there is in Germany," he said.