David Hochschild, vice president of external relations for Solaria Corp., of Oakland, Calif., discusses the operations of a pilot manufacturing facility with Tyler Suiters.
His company has developed a solar panel that uses 50 percent less silicon than a standard solar panel. While silicon is reliable, durable and high performing, it drives up the cost of panels, so Solaria's products can keep down the costs of solar technology.
Solaria's technology uses a lens that doubles the amount of light that hits the solar cell. He describes the manufacturing process and how his company plans to expand and ramp up its operations in California.
He says the solar industry is concerned about Proposition 23, a ballot initiative that aims to roll back California's tough energy and emissions law. Companies like his have raised a lot of venture capital from investors who believe the state law will let the companies thrive -- $9 billion since 2005 and $2 billion in the last year alone. He believes if the law is suspended, that capital, and the jobs it finances, will disappear. He says investors need to see that there will be a market for solar energy before they sink more money into it.
However, he says if the law stays in place and other states follow suit, it could set the stage for the United States to become the largest solar market in the world. He says in innovation in this country is better than that of its major competitors, China and India.
He says if Proposition 23 passes, it will slow his company's growth and that of others like it. He believes that would allow other countries like China, whose government is making heavy investments in its own solar industry, to surpass the U.S. He says many critics of solar power believe the industry needs time to bring costs down, but what it really takes is policy that allows companies to make innovations that will ultimately lower costs.