The global economic crisis: A boon for solar energy?

Fred Yentz, CEO, ILS Technology LLC, Boca Raton, FL USA

Facing one of the most serious global financial crises in decades, companies have as their highest priorities the reduction of expenditures and improvement in operational efficiency. These necessary steps remind us once again of the semiconductor industry’s cyclical nature, and that these downturns have been the incubators for change, which result in a stronger industry in the long run.

As a result of the current climate, businesses are increasingly turning their attention towards clean and renewable sources of energy, particularly solar power. The volatility in the fossil fuel market and the increasing desire to adopt more environmentally friendly practices is propelling the boom of the solar-module manufacturing industry. The industry could soon see growth on a scale similar to what the semiconductor industry experienced in the ’80s and ’90s.

Like any new technology, hurdles remain in the way of widespread adoption. For the solar energy industry, achieving price parity with traditional energy sources represents the biggest obstacle. Both short and long term, manufacturers must maximize the efficiency and yield of solar-module production facilities in order to reduce costs and achieve profitability. To that end, generating optimal operational efficiency from plant equipment will be crucial. Employing secure and intelligent collaboration tools allows geographically dispersed teams to remotely administer almost any aspect of a factory’s production — tool calibration and diagnostics, transfer of process technology, QA/QC, and tool maintenance — without the expense of sending engineers and technicians to the production environment. Use of a remote access services model links development teams, manufacturing sites and supply chain partners across the globe, resulting in dramatically increased productivity, shortened time-to-market, fewer equipment breakdowns, improved ROI and a high-quality end product.

Combined, these factors will result in the leaner and more responsive production environment imperative for solar energy’s long-term economic viability. The semiconductor fabrication industry has used this model to great success for years, and the rapidly emerging solar industry stands to benefit substantially from it as well, especially as the global economy faces uncertain times.


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