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Survey Reflects General Public's Understanding and Opinions about Solar Energy

Published on June 16, 2009 at 8:34 PM

As Americans prepare to enjoy the longest day of the year on Sunday, June 21 during the summer solstice, Applied Materials, the global leader in Nanomanufacturing Technology™ solution, has released a survey reflecting the general public's understanding and opinions about solar energy. The findings indicate that a majority of people surveyed believe in the potential of solar technology and want the U.S. government and utilities to do more to speed its adoption, although some have outdated views.

“The summer solstice is a good time to celebrate the unique power of the sun,” said Dr. Charles Gay, president of Applied Solar. “Applied Materials is working to build a better understanding of how solar technology can provide the country with energy that is efficient, beneficial and now cost-competitive for peak usage in specific regions.”

According to the survey, Americans are calling for more solar energy and faster integration of renewable power into the U.S. energy mix:

  • Half of the people surveyed (50%) think the U.S. Government’s goal to have 25% of its power generated by renewable energy by 2025 is too slow.
  • Four out of five (81%) agree that solar energy should play a greater role in meeting our nation’s energy needs in the next five years.
  • More than two-thirds (68%) think utilities should include solar electricity as a part of their energy generation.
  • Just over half (52%) would be willing to pay more per month if their utility company increased its use of renewable energy. But many consumers (41%) would not be willing to pay more, demonstrating the important role that government incentives, to bring down solar costs, will have on advancement of the technology.

Dispelling Myths and Providing Solar Solutions

“Applied Materials’ solar energy strategy is to bring significant change to the solar industry by enabling lower cost-per-watt solutions for solar photovoltaic (PV) cell manufacturing,” said Gay. “Our goal is to make solar energy a more meaningful contributor to the global energy supply.”

One important step to meeting the company’s goal is to help educate the public about the true potential of solar energy and refute common myths about the sun as an energy source.

Considerable progress has been made advancing solar technology during the past two decades, although many in the survey were not aware of this. Applied Materials, for example, has introduced the SunFab Thin Film Line™, a fully integrated production line for manufacturing the world’s largest solar panels. A full-size SunFab panel measures 5.7m2, or four times the size of traditional panels, and covers an area about the size of a garage door. These larger panels will help increase solar energy output and drive down costs. Experience shows that increasing scale reduces costs–for each doubling of solar installations worldwide, the cost per watt of solar energy has declined by nearly 20%.

The survey also showed that Americans overestimate the amount of solar energy used in this country. One in five people stated that 20% or more of our energy comes from solar power. But solar energy accounts for less than 0.01% of U.S. energy generation, even though solar is already cost-competitive with fossil fuels for peak demand in such places as Hawaii, California and New York.

Another misconception held by over half of the persons surveyed is that solar panel installations on homes are the most efficient way to harness solar energy. In fact, “solar farms” represent an underutilized source for solar energy. The United States could supply its entire energy needs by covering just 1.6% of its land area with solar cells. In fact, putting solar cells on 1% of the area of global deserts would be sufficient to produce electricity for all the people in the world.

Germany and Spain lead the world in solar energy use, thanks to the revolutionary effect of government incentives. But one in four people surveyed believe that the U.S. is the world leader. Policy changes at the federal, state and local level can help the United States assume more of a leadership role in solar energy use. Applied Materials, headquartered in the Silicon Valley, has the nanomanufacturing technology and capabilities to accelerate the growth of the United States solar market. A single Applied SunFab™ tandem junction thin film line can produce enough panels to generate 80 MW of electricity each year, or enough to power over 35,000 homes during peak hours. In addition to the environmental benefits, a solar factory containing one SunFab line has the potential to generate an estimated $2 billion of economic development and create over 2,500 local jobs over five production years, according to an independent analysis.

To review the full findings of this survey and learn more about Applied Materials' solar photovoltaic business, visit http://www.appliedmaterials.com/summer.

Survey Methodology

Applied Materials engaged Ketchum Global Research Network to design and analyze a telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults, comprised of 200 adults in each of the following five states: New York, California, Colorado, Texas and Florida. For purposes of the survey, renewable energy was defined as energy generated from resources that are naturally replenished, such as sunlight, wind, tides and geothermal heat. The survey was fielded by Braun Research from June 5-8, 2009. The margin of error for the base sample is +/- 3.0% at the 95% confidence level.

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