MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. A trio of semiconductor chief executives said Silicon Valley, not Washington D.C., is the place most prepared to turnaround the tanking economy and solve the energy crisis. The move comes at a time when President-elect Barack Obama is drafting a massive program to stimulate the slumping U.S. economy, a move drawing opinions from many in the technology community.
"To me the most important problem is energy, and if you solve it there will be enough money available to solve many other problems," said John East, chief executive of FPGA maker Actel Corp. who hosted a roundtable discussion on the energy problem here with chief executives of Cypress and National Semiconductor.
"I believe our business process, not the government, will solve this problem," said T.J. Rodgers, chief executive of Cypress. "I believe our utilities will get ever more expensive, but within a couple years the price of solar will be cheaper and then there will be exponential growth in that industry."
Rodgers recounted how he met the chief executive of solar panel maker SunPower Corp. informally in the winter of 2000, about the time the company was considering laying off half its 40-person staff. Unable to get his board's approval for an investment, Rodgers hand-wrote a $750,000 check to SunPower which was then making about $8 million a year.
Cypress subsequently purchased SunPower and in November spun it out again. The startup is expected to hit revenues of $2 billion this year.
"After the spin out, my board asked me what's next [in green technology]. I said that [SunPower] may be a once in a lifetime event, but we are working on it," said Rodgers.
In a video with EE Times, the Cypress exec described several new directions, including a new effort to make thermostats that ride the company's low-cost wireless network. He also sketched out a path to making solar panels as cost effective as today's power plants, and described a new energy harvesting technique still in the research lab at Cypress.