To put the power and potential of solar energy into perspective, consider for a moment that after passing through the atmosphere, 174 PW (1015) of solar energy hits the Earth�s land and water. This is equivalent to ten thousand times the world�s current annual energy usage (15 TW  in 2005). In other words, there is potential for all global energy to be harnessed from the sun�s rays.
Although the world�s focus is shifting to alternate energies such as solar, geothermal, hydro, wind and biomass as environmentally acceptable alternatives, these technologies still need cost reductions to make them more accessible. Fortunately, government investment and technology improvements are driving down the price of solar energy, positioning it as an increasingly viable energy solution for the future.
Interestingly, there are a number of similarities between the electronics and solar industries; for instance, military and defense requirements originally drove both.
Electronics were driven by military/defense in the 1950s, by personal computers in the 1980s, and today, by consumer products such as cellphones and gaming equipment. Those who invested in surface mount technology in the early 1980s were able to benefit from the increase in demand driven by the rampant growth of the Internet, telecommunications and computing products.
"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy � what a source of power! I hope we don�t have to wait 'til oil and coal run out before we tackle that." -Thomas Edison
Similarly, the solar industry was driven by defense, followed by remote power. Today, it is driven by on-grid power and consumer demand (solar panels, solar farms, environmentally sound solutions). To that end, those investing in solar today may benefit from the growth of this industry during the next 20 years.
There are opportunities for everyone in the industry to benefit from the shift to environmentally friendly thinking and the resulting demand for alternate energy. Electronics manufacturers, OEMs and suppliers are investing in research and development and looking at business opportunities. If you are interested in what�s next for the electronics industry, this may be it.
What can the industry bring to the table to help the solar industry achieve its objectives? Maybe that discovery process will happen at SMTA International this year. The August event will feature a session on alternate energy at which DEK, BTU, Indium, Asymtek and PhotoStencil will discuss their involvement. Also, Prismark Partners, an independent consulting group, will present "Photovoltaics: The Next Great Electronics Market," the firm's survey of opportunities throughout the photovoltaic supply chain.
For more information about SMTAI or the Alternative Energy Symposium visit the website at smta.org/smtai or contact JoAnn Stromberg, firstname.lastname@example.org 952-920-7682.