As renewable energy becomes a larger part of the United States' energy mix, it will become as important to consider where it is being manufactured as where oil and gas are located today, said Alexander Karsner, an assistant secretary for the Department of Energy, at the Dow Jones Alternative Energy Innovations conference Tuesday.

"If you want to focus on a new era of energy security, you have to focus on not just where commodities -- gas and oil -- are located, but where the manufacturing capacity for nuclear-energy conversion and solar devices will be located," he said at the Redwood City, Calif., event.

Most clean-energy manufacturing is happening in other countries, he added, saying that U.S. tax-based subsidies are going to foreign manufacturers in Germany, Denmark and Japan.

"One would think, given our overreliance on tax policy for most of the preservation of the environment, that we would begin gearing our tax policy so that we aren't losing twice," he said.

U.S. taxpayers first subsidize these investments in other countries, he said, and then U.S. companies have to buy the technology back from those companies overseas.

Heating Up Solar Power's Bottom Line

In photos, Cyclone Power Technologies' Waste Heat Engine, a curious metallic contraption, looks a bit like a 3-D version of a child's drawing of the sun -- a circle surrounded by jutting rays.

It is, perhaps, an apt image. The company plans to market the engine as a piece of machinery that can drastically cut the costs of solar power by generating electricity from solar heat run-off.

The machine was unveiled last month in patent applications by the Pompano Beach, Fla.-based maker of engines that run off of alternative power sources. On Monday, it successfully passed its first series of tests, apparently running for eight hours straight.

The machine requires low pressure and low temperature. That means that when it's attached to waste heat, such as exhaust from the engine of a truck or a generator plant, it can provide an extra boost of power and reduce fuel consumption, said marketing head Wilson McQueen.

But solar power may become the biggest opportunity, McQueen said, as the Waste Heat Engine can run as an electrical generator off the heat from 500 square feet of polycarbonate panels on the roof of a building. McQueen estimated the engine could provide solar electricity to a home at one-fifth the price of photovoltaic solar-cell systems.

Cyclone plans to market the licensing of its technology to truck, generator and home-building companies at upcoming trade shows, and said that versions of the engine may be ready for commercial production by the end of next year.

Suntech Power Opens Shop in San Francisco

California's efforts to shore itself up as the friendliest cleantech state in the union got a boost Monday, as the Chinese photovoltaic solar-cell maker Suntech Power Holdings officially opened shop in San Francisco.

Suntech is one of the world's largest solar-panel makers, pulling in $599 million in sales last year and a year-over-year growth rate approaching 150 percent, according to recent filings.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said Suntech's arrival could help establish the city as a center of a fast-growing industry that still hasn't formed a dominant hub in the United States.

"We had a lot of folks trying to get this headquarters announcement in their city," Newsom said Monday at a press conference, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "For them to be in San Francisco is a big win."

Suntech has said that a key to the company's decision was California's Solar Initiative, which began last January and will offer $2.9 billion in tax rebates to encourage the installation of 3,000 megawatts of solar capacity in the state over the next 10 years.

According to Suntech, California companies already make up 70 percent of the solar maker's U.S. customer base -- including such large, high-profile, San Francisco-centered projects as a 500 kW solar-power system at the airport, and a glass-on-glass solar demonstration project at the California Academy of Sciences.

Suntech previously revealed its plans to move to California to Greentech Media in September.