U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke recently appointed the new chair of the U.S. Manufacturing Council, a body that advicesthe Commerce Department on issues relating to American manufacturers.With his selection, Locke sent a clear message that the U.S. renewableenergy industry — specifically the solar energy sector — is and willcontinue to be a considerable engine to U.S. economic growth.
Locke appointed Bruce Sohn, President of First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR),the largest manufacturer of thin-film photovoltaic (PV) modules in theworld. First Solar is based in Tempe, Arizona and has manufacturingplants in Germany, Malaysia and Perrysburg, Ohio.
The appointment was endorsed by renewable energy leaders across thecountry, including Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar EnergyIndustries Association (SEIA). Among the issues Resch hopes Sohn willhelp address is America’s dwindling share of global market for solarenergy equipment. According to the SEIA, 40 percent of all photovoltaic(PV) panels were made in the United States a decade ago. That number has now dipped to under ten percent.
First Solar has worked to turn that tide in recent years. In 2003, First Solar announced a major expansion project at its Ohio plant to meet the rising demand for renewable energy systems in the UnitedStates. In 2009, with the expansion complete, First Solar increased that location’s manufacturing capacity to 25-megawatts (MW) annually.