Sun is Shining on Russia
Last week, I attended a semiconductor networking event in Austin sponsored by SEMI and Concurrent Design focused on new opportunities in the solar market. I have lived in Austin for nearly seven years, and I must say - I was floored by the turn-out. It had the same energy as a start-up party during the dot com glory days when I lived in San Francisco. People were excited, and yes, people were even cheering - with their microbrews in the air - as the speakers rallied them on about solar opportunities. There was a line out the door, at least 4 or 5 new solar start-ups represented that no one even knew existed and plenty of old and new faces in the room from the semiconductor industry. The room was alive with optimism about the market potential. The price of solar manufacturing has finally come down to the market price for utility energy, making this a market that really is going to take off dramatically over the next few years.
Since that time, Austin-based solar company HelioVolt received the second largest single clean energy investment in 2007, raising $77 million in its first round to build a manufacturing plant in Austin. It's nice to see solar developments escalating in the U.S., so we can hopefully catch up with Germany and Japan. I was surprised, however, to see a report done this week by SEMI that announced the trade organization will hold its first conference in Moscow, Russia in 2008. Apparently, the Russian government is putting semiconductor development at the top of its list, and solar is included in the mix with 10 projects underway.
Russia seems to see the writing on the wall in regards to soon to be international climate change policies. The country is allocating prior oil and gas investments into semiconductor and solar developments. Time will tell if Russia makes a name for itself in the solar technology world, but it sure will be interesting to follow.