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U.S. Solar Demand Prompts Domestic Production

solarpanels2The U.S. solar industry has a bright 2010 ahead of it, with demand on the rise and old factories being converted to solar production.

For instance, an idled silicon plant in New York has come online to produce materials for solar cells.

Partly driving the uptick in the solar industry is the U.S. federal government’s fast-tracking of more than 2.4 gigawatts of renewable energy projects in California to help them qualify for stimulus funding, together with more interest for new projects due to lower panel pricing, reports Reuters.

This is after a year marked by a nearly a 50 percent decline in solar module prices that impacted profits for leading solar companies like First Solar Inc. and Q-Cells, reports Reuters.

However, some Gartner analysts cautioned that a full recovery will take time with 2010 revenue up 9 percent, according to the article.

Another piece of good news for the solar industry is that a silicon plant in New York state, idle for six years, has reopened after a $27 million renovation, reports Trading Markets (via The Buffalo News). Globe Specialty Metals plans to manufacture metallurgical-grade silicon for the solar industry at the reopened plant.

The company plans to invest an additional $35 million over the next four years to expand the plant’s capacity to produce a purified silicon used in solar cells, reports Trading Markets.

The plant will create 138 jobs in the first phase of the $60 million expansion, with plans to employ 500 people on completion of the project.

In exchange for an incentive package, which gives Globe Specialty Metals an allocation of 40-megawatts of hydropower over five years from the New York Power Authority, the company will allow the state’s Empire State Development Corp. to offer 25 percent of the plant’s solar-grade silicon at a reduced price to solar cell manufacturers that locate in the state, according to Trading Markets.

Around the world, industry analysts expect a better year for the solar industry with signs of a brighter outlook in Germany, an easier credit environment and better performance from low-cost Chinese producers, Reuters reports. Solar panel prices have stabilized and solar incentives in Germany and Italy will most likely be less severe than investors initially thought, according to analysts.

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