Solar Energy, Luminous Alternative Mexico’s strategic location has always been key to the
establishment of solar cell producing companies. The German company Q-Cells is opening a plant in Mexicali with an investment of 3.5 billion usd, representing the largest amount of foreign investment in Mexico’s history. Also, the Japanese company Kyocera has opened a plant in Tijuana with an investment of33 million usd.
By Karla Bañuelos
First came fire nearly 500,000 years ago. Water and windmills appeared in the Middle Age.
Many years later came carbon and other fossil fuels during the Industrial Revolution. Finally there was oil. Each one, in their time, has been the main source of energy in the world. Their use, however, has eroded the planet’s environmental balance, due in large part tocarbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated by their combustion. According to the magazine Science, CO2 emissions have reached their highest levels in history, deriving in ecological problems like the greenhouse effect, one of the causes of global warming. A very effective way to diminish this deterioration is the use of alternative energies like photovoltaic –the generation of electricity throughsolar energy. The use of this energy source has grown in the last few years around the world. Between 1985 and 2008, installed capacity ofsolar energy went from 21 megawatts to 5,498 megawatts. To clarify these figures: a megawatt is equivalent to one million watts. With an increase in solar energy use, the demand for photovoltaic or solar cells has grown by 30% in the last 15 years. The mainmarkets are Spain (the biggest in 2008), followed by Germany, Japan and the United States.
In Mexico, solar energy has started to win supporters. The country has some clear advantages: in most of its territory, solar radiation levels favor the installation of photovoltaic energy plants. But not only that, its infrastructure, proximity to the North American market and availability of qualified workersmake Mexico attractive to companies that manufacture products and equipment that generate electricity through solar energy. In the northern part of the country, companies that are leading the research and development of solar energy technology have found a strategic point for the expansion of their operations. Home for the big firms Due to the growth of the US market, Mexico
has become animportant location for manufacturers of photovoltaic cells. In mid- 2008, German company Q-Cells announced it would invest 3.5 billion usd over the next five years to open a plant in Mexicali, Baja California (along the US-Mexico border) to produce photovoltaic cells mainly for the North American market. Q-Cells’ investment will create around 4,000 direct jobs and another 4,000 indirectones. It will alsogive the company access to the growing California area market, like the Mexicali valley and north of Sonora, where high temperatures require the use of large amounts of energy for refrigeration systems but which also represent potential sources of solar energy. Leo van der Holst, vice president of Q-Cells, explained his company decided to build the plant –to be the largest of its kind in theworld– in Mexico because its location will permit direct access not only to the US market but also to the growing ones in Latin America. Q-Cells is the world’s most important manufacturer of solar cells, even supplying independent units to other manufacturers in strategic markets. The company also researches and develops new technologies with a team of more than 100 technologists, scientists andengineers. It collaborates with universities and institutes like the Hahn Meitner Institute, the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands, the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, Constanza University and the Solar Hemeln Research Institute. The projects being developed are destined to increase the efficiency of cell performance. Another solar cell producer that has established itself in...
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