troops in Iraq and Afghanistan often occur in convoy settings when the military is moving fuel supplies and other resources to the troops. The military itself is working hard on PV research, already issuing small solar panels, because they represent a distributed form of energy and hence do not have the same protection challenges in the battlefield. “The military knows better than any institution the need for clean energy supplies,” he said.
Despite the advantages of renewable energy, he said, sustained local, state, and federal efforts are required to transform the nation’s energy industry. He offered a quote from Ernest Moniz, professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former Under Secretary of Energy: “The energy industry is a multitrillion-dollar-per-year, highly capitalized commodity business—with exquisite supply chains, providing essential services at all levels of society. This leads to a system with considerable inertia, aversion to risk, extensive regulation, and complex politics.” To change this system, said Senator Udall, would require innovative structures, such as partnerships that were designed to perform research more efficiently, lower manufacturing costs, and help solar companies across the financial “valley of death” between the laboratory and the marketplace. Other industries had done this, he said, and provided models and analogs that could now be useful for the PV industry. One kind of model is SEMATECH, he said, which supports the semiconductor industry. Another is the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, a research consortium of universities (the Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, and the University of Colorado at Boulder) and government (the National Renewable Energy Laboratory [NREL]). The new collaboratory, created by the state legislature, works with private sector groups and draws on other universities and community colleges. “Anything goes,” he said, “as long as it is improving energy efficiency.”
He closed with the admonition that many other nations are working as hard as they can to gain an economic and technical edge in renewable energy. As an example, he cited the French minister of sustainable development’s recent comment that a new French solar manufacturing project would act as a magnet to attract further solar investments and green jobs to France.
“I know we can compete,” he concluded, “and we want the clean energy manufacturing base to be here in the United States. We want to sell the technology to other countries, not vice versa. We can’t do anything more patriotic than driving the manufacturing, the products, and the leadership role of this new clean energy space.”