Sad motto for U.S. Solar Panel Industry: “Invented here, sold there.”
September 16, 2009
NYT columnist Thomas Friedman shines a light on how the U.S. is failing to capitalize on the worldwide market for solar panels.
Applied Materials is one of the most important U.S. companies you’ve probably never heard of. It makes the machines that make the microchips that go inside your computer. The chip business, though, is volatile, so in 2004 Mike Splinter, Applied Materials’s C.E.O., decided to add a new business line to take advantage of the company’s nanotechnology capabilities — making the machines that make solar panels. The other day, Splinter gave me a tour of the company’s Silicon Valley facility, culminating with a visit to its “war room,” where Applied maintains a real-time global interaction with all 14 solar panel factories it’s built around the world in the last two years. I could only laugh because crying would have been too embarrassing. Not a single one is in America.
Let’s see: five are in Germany, four are in China, one is in Spain, one is in India, one is in Italy, one is in Taiwan and one is even in Abu Dhabi. I suggested a new company motto for Applied Materials’s solar business: “Invented here, sold there.