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Reality Check for US Commerce Secretary – USA is already far behind China in Clean Energy

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The United States could fall behind China and other countries in clean energy technology unless Congress passes energy legislation, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said on Saturday– Reuters

While the Commerce Secretary is “only thinking” that the US could fall far behind ,The Reality is that US is already far behind in the Solar and Wind and is at risk of falling behind in the other newer sectors of the Green Industry as well.

USA is far behind China in Solar

USA has fallen far behind China in solar manufacturing despite Silicon Valley being the hotbed for technology innovation in solar . If it was not for First Solar, no US company would figure in the top 10 rankings by 2011 as the Chinese and Taiwanese use their low cost and processing skills to tighten their grip on the world market. Numerous startups like Miasole,Nanosolar,eSolar are in the process of moving from pilot to commercial production but the support from the government does not measure up . Evergreen Solar has  given up on the US and shifted its manufacturing base to China  while other technology innovators like Energy Conversion Devices are on their “deathbed”.Sunpower and First Solar the other major companies are trying to compete by expanding their facilities in Asia, retaining only a  token presence  in the US (less than 10% of their future capacity will be located in the US). Technology giant Applied Materials has shifted its manufacturing and R&D base  to China as well. While all this is going on, US continues its petty politicking over the climate bill which ironically has support for “offshore drilling”

In Wind US is in a more pathetic condition

Except for GE , US does not have a single company in the top 10 turbine makers for wind. There does not exist a single large pure play wind turbine maker in the US. Despite US being the world’s largest wind market in 2009 , US hardly manufactures even 10% of the world’s wind turbines.In contrast Chinese wind makers like Sinovel,Goldwind ,APower are planning big foreign expansions making the dominant European companies like Vestas  go into the red.

Energy Efficiency,Storage and other forms of Renewable Energy a  Saving Grace

In the still nascent markets of Energy Efficiency ,Energy Storage and other forms of renewable energy like geothermal ,tidal ,biomass and nuclear energy the US still leads along with Europe, but the Chinese government has been proactively seeking investment in these areas as well. Its a matter of time that once these technologies cross the early adopter curve, companies in Asia will actively look to attain leadership here as well.Innovative companies like Ormat, Comverge,EnerNoc , Johnson Controls,A123 systems still give the leadership to the US in these areas.But unless they are given more government support and subsidies , you can see them moving off to Asia like the solar and semi companies like Evergreen,Applied Materials.


US is still the leader in technology innovation and R&D in the green technology area,however it is way behind in the manufacturing area.Its only a matter of time that the Asian countries develop the technology once they move further along the experience curve.Companies in the US like IBM,Applied and others have already shifted a large part of R&D to these countries.Unless US soon implements on  a coherent long term policy to mitigate climate change and develop clean energy , it would fall too far behind to matter at all


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

4 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. al

    what is Obama doing? Still putting the money into the banks’ hands, wasting money in CSP Energy Companies from Spain like Avengoa. When what he should be doing is estimulating the economy by stimulating the small businesses with this money, and putting the power into the hands of people but implementing a feed-in tariff energy plan and buying power from people that uses photovoltaics and connects to the grid, big proven success in Germany. Obama is not an engineer or an economist obviously, and is certainly screwing up everything with the advice of his cabinet members