The solar connection between Arkansas and China moved another step forward in November, thanks to a proactive trip from the CEOs of two Fayetteville-based startups in the solar industry.
Douglas Hutchings of Picasolar Inc. and Corey Thompson of WattGlass Inc. spent a week in China in an effort to strengthen existing partnerships. They were joined on the trip by Yang Luo-Branch of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
Technology from both companies, each funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, is being used by several Chinese solar panel manufacturers, including Yingli Green Energy, one of the largest solar panel companies in the world. Hutchings said the goal of the trip was to finalize technology deployment plans, walk through exactly where they would be implemented on the factory floor and work through the supply chain logistics. Testing is currently underway and the intended result is wide scale deployment in 2018.
“The demand for reliable and cost effective energy is growing around the world, and solar is rapidly becoming the cheapest option in many circumstances,” Hutchings said. “Quite literally, trillions of dollars will be spent to build out new capacity and replacing aging [less efficient] generation sources. It is my hope that a technologies developed in Arkansas are incorporated into those solar panels.”
Hutchings said while he has aspirations for solar manufacturing to occur in Arkansas, in the short term it is more “capital efficient” to work with existing manufacturers.