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EGEB: US silicon manufacturer laying off 100; Pollution kills 9 million (!) a year; more

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Hemlock Semiconductor to lay off 100 workers – This week Hemlock is reporting that it will lay off 100 workers in Michigan, with most losing their jobs in the first quarter of 2018, as part of a plan which involves “simplifying and streamlining its organization to meet the new market realities”. The US used to be the largest producer of polysilicon in the world. It was the one solar power related item that brought the net import/export above $0. A combination of events has hammered at this. For one – Chinese tariffs attached to polysilicon as a result of US tariffs on solar modules in 2013 helped. This led to an opening for China and South Korea to ramp up volume – and they’ve done so. As an aside, SolarWorld technically owes $800 million to Hemlock as part of contracts signed when polysilicon cost a lot more.

Chinese solar developers come up second best in the sunniest nations along the New Silk Road – Interesting to read about how even Chinese developers cannot compete with the Middle Eastern 1% interest rates that state owned power companies have access to. The groups setting records in Saudi Arabia do so because business and power companies and banks are essentially the same party. There are parallels to the structures of Chinese government, banks and solar panel companies also. Both groups have their state’s interest gaining great benefit from the strategic use of capital that only a state who prints money has.

KAUST researchers look into lateral heterojunction – This seems like far away, possibly never becoming directly useful research…however, even in doing it – that is researching new materials and new ways of using materials – we’re learning about current solar panel techniques. Per this article, there are challenges in making heterojunction solar cells that has to do with putting the layers together. If these folks find a cheaper, smarter, more efficiency way of doing things – we win.

This story is really about REC Solar – Solar Industry Fears for Thousands of Jobs Should U.S. Impose Import Restrictions – Solar panels that are produced in Canada, Australia or Singapore are not going to be part of the Suniva tariff. Time to pay attention to those manufacturers and see what their actions are. REC sells half of their panels to other places in the world – would it makes sense for them to sell only into the USA where the base price is higher due to legislation?

Pollution kills 9 million a year – And this number will only increase as the weather gets more complex. The two-year project, which relied on data from researchers in more than 130 countries documenting the causes of disease and premature deaths in recent decades, found that poor air quality was the most significant pollution-related killer. That includes both outdoor pollution tainted by mercury, arsenic and other harmful particulates, and household air dirtied by the burning of wood, dung and other organic materials. Yesterday’s story from the IEA pushing for solar included a heavy amount of focus on indoor cooking. Learning to use fire comes with good and bad, like all else. Image below is from a PDF published by the authors of the study.

Header image from the ‘Hit me with your SunShot‘ photography contest. Since I’ve shown each of the winning photographs – I’ve now moved into showing off some of the images that didn’t ‘win’ – but are beautiful nonetheless. These images are located on the flickr account page of SunShot. La Ola Solar Farm Installation in Lanai, Hawaii. Photo by Merrill Smith.

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