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Friday, September 5, 2008

Can Milwaukee become a solar city?

From an article by Ken Reibel in the Sheperd Express:

Can the red-hot market for solar panels generate green jobs for Milwaukee? Some city officials are hoping so. “We’ll be looking into whether we can build them locally,” says Ann Beier, director of environmental sustainability for the city of Milwaukee.

Beier and others want to use part of a $200,000 federal Solar City grant to fund a feasibility study. “It’s worth exploring,” she says.

The numbers are enticing. The U.S. solar market grew 57% in 2007, and worldwide demand has grown 20%-25% per year over the past 20 years. But barriers to entry are steep, and investment risky. Four manufacturing behemoths currently produce 50% of the solar energy products, or photovoltaics, sold on the planet, and the pace of innovation could leave some investors out in the cold.

“Not the U.S.A., but Germany, Japan and China are the major manufacturers,” says Niels Wolter, solar electric program manager for the Madison-based Focus on Energy Renewable Energy Program. “But solar electric technology has significant room for innovation, so there are opportunities for new businesses to enter the market.”

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