Tom Cheyney, former senior editor of PV-Tech and Photovoltaics International, is now chief curator of SolarCurator.com and director of Impress Labs’ solar practice.
One of the original purposes of blogs, once known as Weblogs, was to
offer links to interesting tidbits all over the World Wide Interweb
(sic), something Chip Shots does from time to time in addition to the
usual onslaught of rants, musings, analyses, and news coverage. Here
are a few interesting reads from the first days of the new year.
you haven't already seen it already, I strongly suggest reading---and
studying---the cover story from the January 2008 issue of Scientific American, titled "A Solar Grand Plan."
Cowritten by Ken Zweibel, veteran photovoltaicist and president of
cadmium-telluride thin-film PV startup PrimeStar Solar, the article
offers a compelling argument for a strategy to put the US on a
renewable energy path. "By 2050 solar power could end US dependence on
foreign oil and slash greenhouse gas emissions," the subheadline boldly
states, to the tune of solar supplying 69% of the country's electrical
requirements and 35% of its total energy.
concepts include plans to erect "a vast area of photovoltaic cells" in
the American Southwest, where "excess daytime energy would be stored as
compressed air in underground caverns to be tapped during nighttime
hours." There would also be "large solar concentrator power plants"
constructed, as well as a "new direct-current power transmission
backbone" capable of delivering "solar electricity across the country."
Then there's the cost: the authors guesstimate that it will take "$420
billion in subsidies from 2011 to 2050" to "fund the infrastructure and
make it cost-competitive." As a bonus, check the scores of comments,
including lots of give and take between Zweibel and the readers, which
make for a fascinating complementary thread to the article.
The launch of Chinese semiconductor equipment concern AMEC received extensive coverage in Chip Shots
a month ago. News of another sort involving AMEC appeared on Christmas
Day, when details of Applied Materials
' trade-secret misappropriation
lawsuit against the upstart company were reported in a curiously unbylined piece in EETimes
As with many legal wranglings in the chipmaking world, details on the
ground are a bit thin, beyond the usual lawyers' pronouncements full of
carefully crafted legalistic quibblishness.
But the semi
sector's little guy vs. big guy battle also caught the attention of the
wider media world, when Salon.com's Andrew Leonard weighed in last
week. The writer of the site's "How the World Works" column penned a
piece with the provocative headline, "Betrayal: A Silicon Valley way of life,"
in which he offers several thoughtful, balanced insights on the
companies' staredown. Should the squabble be seen as yet-another sign
of growing US-China trade tensions? Or maybe AMEC is just another part
(albeit a Chinese version) of "Silicon Valley's... wide diffusion of
intellectual property propelled by wave after wave of start-ups,"
something which academics and SiVal watchers see "as essential to
understanding how the region continues to prosper"?
nothing else, the timing of Applied's legal assault (apart from the
relative merits of the case), just as AMEC ratchets up its involvement
with customers and increases its foray into the marketplace, provides
fodder for beaucoup speculation by the industry's chattering
classes. One final note: The column also marks the first time that Chip
Shots has been hyperlink-referenced on that prestigious site (!), but
it would still be well worth reading---even if my writer's ego had not
received a nice triple-W caress.
Speaking of EETimes,
fellow journalistic traveler Mark LaPedus, never known for his strong
opinions or an ability to get under industry players' skins (yeah,
right!), ponied up his "predictions" of the top 10 stories for 2008
last week. After offering his own gloomy 2008 forecast for both the
chip (zero growth) and equipment (negative growth) sectors, Mark's
other prognostications mostly discuss various scenarios of mergers,
acquisitions, IPOs, and private equity buyouts. Companies like Novellus
("ripe for a takeover"), IBM (spins off semi
unit? takes over part of
AMD?), and SMIC (also a prime takeover target? merges with Chartered?)
all get caught in his crosshairs.
One of the most provocative
bits on Mark's hitlist deals with advanced litho: "...Extreme
ultraviolet (EUV) lithography will die a slow and painful death in
2008." Ouch! Whether his prediction represents pain in a "the truth
hurts" kind of way remains an open question, one that might get some
conversational, maybe even actionable, traction at next month's SPIE
Advanced Lithography event.