This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

November 06, 2002

China Buys U.S. Solar Cell Equipment Despite Industry Downturn

A growing interest in renewable energy in China has led a Chinese company to purchase a solar cell manufacturing line from GT Solar Technologies, a U.S. company. Baoding Yingli New Energy Resources Co., Ltd. of Baoding, China, ordered the cell fabrication equipment on November 1st as a follow-up to its purchase of a silicon wafer manufacturing line earlier this year. The new equipment will allow the Chinese company to convert its silicon wafers into complete solar cells. Since GT Solar also sells equipment to turn those cells into complete solar modules, we might expect more news from the two companies in the future. See the GT Solar press release.

Unfortunately, China may be bucking the trend: According to Shell Solar, the worldwide demand for solar cells is down this year. After four years of more than 30 percent annual growth, a drop in demand this year is causing a worldwide glut, says the company, which is now restructuring its operations. With global photovoltaic production now at 760 megawatts of peak capacity per year (up from 400 in 2001), Shell Solar says the industry is at overcapacity, which is leading the company to close two solar facilities and lay off about 250 staff. See the Shell Solar press release.

According to a recent report from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, China and other developing countries are taking a number of actions—such as encouraging the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency—that are reducing the growth in their greenhouse gas emissions. In most cases, though, the actions are driven by the goals of poverty alleviation, development, local environmental protection, and energy security, rather than aiming to control greenhouse gases. The study examined activities now underway in Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa, and Turkey. See the Pew Center report, including links to a press release and the executive summary of the report.

Meanwhile, a report issued in September by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) found that only 3 percent of energy loans and loan guarantees issued by the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank since 1990 have gone toward renewable energy. That fact runs counter to congressional legislation passed in 1989 that said the bank should seek to provide at least 5 percent of its energy sector financing to renewable energy projects. According to the GAO report, about 60 percent of the Ex-Im Band renewable energy funds went toward two large geothermal plants in the Philippines in 1994; overall, 75 percent of the funding went toward geothermal energy, 17 percent went toward hydroelectric power, and 8 percent went toward other renewable energy projects. The report concludes that the Ex-Im Bank efforts to date to encourage the export of renewable energy "have been limited," but it also sees some promise in the new Renewable Energy Exports Advisory Committee, established by the bank in May 2002. See the GAO report (PDF 1.6 MB) and the related Ex-Im Bank press release. Download Acrobat Reader.