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Entrepreneurs are Banking on Solar Solutions


"Silicon Valley" in northern California originally referred to the corporate homes of silicon chip innovators and manufacturers, and the high tech businesses in the San Francisco Bay area. Today that region is retooling in a "green" way. VOA's Paul Sisco has today's Searching for Solutions report.

Entrepreneurship is alive and well in northern California. More so in solar power development than in the software and computer businesses that flourished here in the 1980s and '90s.

Dick Swanson is with a company called SunPower. "Today is kind of our 1983 for the chip industry, if you will." When asked if the industry were on the cusp of it becoming everyday household technology, he answered, "Absolutely, absolutely."

He hopes so, and so do a number of entrepreneurs who believe alternative energy development is the next big thing here. Many are forming companies that manufacture, distribute, and install solar panels and other solar energy products.

Lyndon Rive used to be in the software business. Now he runs Solar City. "Looking at the world's biggest problems, software is not going to address it."

His new business brings solar power to California homes and neighborhoods.

David Pierce, another former computer industry executive, is convinced there will soon be a mass American market for solar panels, and that will make them affordable. "This is my sixth venture-backed company and this is the most exciting market opportunity I've ever been in," he says.

Venture capitalist Ray Lane agrees. "Last year the funding -- the venture capital funding for green or renewable technologies -- was something like one and a half billion dollars. This year it will be three and a half billion."

The growing demand for green technology is turning California's Silicon Valley, into "Solar Valley".

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