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Fab2Farm Could Be the Next 'Beatles' of Solar



The idea looks like a cool new version of the old SimCity computer game. You link a city to a solar manufacturing plant to a solar farm. The plant employs the people, the farm collects the energy and the city is up and running.

But this isn’t a game, it’s a pitch from Applied Materials, a Fortune 500 company known for making computer microchips.

They call it the best idea in the last 4 billion years.

The company says the key to its fab2farm ecosystem is SunFab, a thin film production line that produces 61-square-foot solar panels, or modules that are eight times the size of conventional panels. That means fewer panels and less material are needed to power a connected city.

This all drives down costs for the solar generation to less than $3.50 a watt. That’s on par with peak natural gas generation, the company says.

The side benefit: A cleaner environment emitting less greenhouse gases and one less city relying on traditional, polluting power from sources like coal.

In one fab2farm example, a SunFab panel manufacturing factory could produce 80 megawatts of panels in a year, or enough to power 35,000 homes. A connected solar farm would use the panels to bring electricity to the city, and avoid 170,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. The community would enjoy jobs at the factory and solar farm, and ripple effects including training and research programs at local community colleges and universities.

Anyone following the solar industry has seen other companies boast that their technology and processes are the most revolutionary, most cost-effective, most powerful. SunFab is one of the latest. This is a race we can all benefit from, regardless of the winner. If this worked in SimCity, wouldn’t it work in RealCities?

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is typing about issues in the Great Lakes, from advanced biofuels to zero-emission vehicles. Jeff is an environmental journalist and social media evangelist based in Michigan, where the summers are short, the winters are cold, and the stories are plentiful.


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