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September 27, 2006

Silicon valley plans to be solar cell valley

Engineers and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are taking advantage of their expertise in computer chips to design and manufacture electricity-generating solar cells that they hope will be increasingly competitive with traditional energy sources such as coal and natural gas. Most solar cells and chips are made from the same raw material from which the valley gets its name Improving technology, falling costs, rising prices for fossil fuels, concerns about the electric grid's stability and worries about global warming are all raising interest in solar energy. The industry is expected to grow from $11 billion (euro8.6 billion) in 2005 to $51 billion (euro39.9 billion) in 2015, according to a projection by Clean Edge Inc., a market research firm focused on clean technology. About $1.4 billion (euro1.1 billion) in venture capital was invested in cleantech ventures during the first six months of this year, and $1.6 billion (euro1.25 billion) was invested last year, according to the Cleantech Venture Network. About one-third of that money was invested in Silicon Valley, said Carl Guardino, who heads the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

California hopes to overtake Germany and Japan as the world's largest solar market with its ''Million Solar Roofs'' program, which provides $3 billion (euro2.35 billion) in rebates to consumers who install rooftop panels.

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