Silicon Valley Betting on Solar Power

ByABC News
April 7, 2007, 4:39 PM

SAN JOSE, Calif., April 7, 2007 — -- Using machinery that looks like giant aluminum film developers, a company called Miasole in the heart of Silicon Valley is rolling out sheets of stainless steel coated with materials that will convert sunlight into electricity.

The company hopes to mass-produce affordable solar panels to power homes and businesses across the country.

"I'm sort of a serial entrepreneur," said David Pearce, president and CEO of Miasole. "This is my sixth venture-backed company and this is the most exciting market opportunity I've ever been in."

He's excited because only one or two percent of electricity in the United States is generated by the power of the sun, and this may be the dawn of a new age for solar power and alternative energy.

Watch Brian Rooney's report on Silicon Valley "Going Green" tonight on "World News." Check local listings for air times.

Still smarting from the Internet bubble burst, some of the technical braintrust of Silicon Valley is turning to what may be the next big thing, generating new kinds of energy for a country increasingly worried about dependence on foreign oil and the threat of global warming caused by the release of greenhouse gases.

These are some of the same people who changed the world with the silicon computer chip, the hard drive, digital technology, even the Apple iPod.

"Looking at the world's biggest problems, software is not going to address it," said Lyndon Rive, CEO of a company called Solar City that is pushing affordable solar power by convincing whole residential neighborhoods to go solar, thereby keeping down the cost.

Rive used to be in the software business but now says his future is in developing a new form of electric production that holds down the emission of harmful carbon dioxide.

"It's one of the few industries where you have the opportunity to make some money and do good," Rive said.

Stephen Levy, a Silicon Valley economist, said, "It's a moment in time when the next great possibility is launched. We don't know that it's going to be a certainty, and we don't know how big it's going to be. But it's right now where the companies are trying to get in on the ground floor."