Yesterday, the Commerce Department announced that it would impose duties as high as 4.73% on solar energy equipment imported from China. Stemming from a complaint lodged with the government last year by a group of solar manufacturing companies led by SolarWorld, this latest round was expected.
Irrespective of the trade dispute with China, it is clear that innovation in solar cell efficiency and manufacturing continues to occur in the US. Take for instance, GE’s advancements in thin film solar. The company announced last year that it had reached 12.8 percent efficiency on its cadmium telluride solar panels and expects the efficiency to be higher when production at an all new manufacturing facility in Aurora, Colorado begins next year.
GE’s innovation in the solar energy industry is not confined however to the past two years. Using their latest data visualization app, you can browse the company’s annual reports from 1892 to present day. As early as 1946, GE was examining solar intensity in space. Fast forward to 1974, the company completed a National Science Foundation contract to demonstrate solar heating in a Boston area school. By 1979, anticipating a future electricity shortfall in the late 1980’s, GE pursued research and development in the use of solar central-receiver power plants that use heliostats to convert sunlight to electricity.
The innovation that we see in the solar industry today is the culmination of decades of research and development that GE and many other multinational enterprises have conducted. Manufacturing will take place where it is most efficient to do so. Absent, government intervention, multinational enterprises must weigh a variety of factors in determining where manufacturing will be most efficient.
It is incumbent upon us to focus on the innovation that is taking place and not the ebbs and flows of the business world. Companies may come and go, governments may shift policies, but innovation will continue. Companies like GE, continue to do what they do best – innovate. Everything else, including manufacturing, is icing on the cake.
Sponsored post: Written in collaboration with GE
Walter Wang is Managing Editor of CleanTechies. Follow Walter on twitter: @energytaxprof.