Ted Turner Touts Solar Power -- And Invests In It

CNN founder Ted Turner reacts as he speaks about Gerald Levin, the former CEO of AOL Time Warner, while speaking at the CNN 25 World Report Conference in Atlanta in this Wednesday, June 1, 2005 file photo. Turner received the Clinton Center Award for Leadership and National Service Wednesday, June 29, 2005, for his work as an environmentalist in New York. The award is given by the Democratic Leadership Council, a Washington-based nonprofit organization comprised of Democratic legislators and gov
Ric Feld

Ted Turner calls solar energy the "biggest business opportunity the world has ever seen." And for once, he may be understating it. CNBC's Jane Wells reported on the maverick mogul's plans, on "Morning Call."

Wells noted the daunting upfront starting costs associated with sun power. But New Jersey and California have enacted government incentive programs to drive investment. N.J. covers up to 60% of the costs for a business to "go solar"; and the Golden State -- helmed by a science-minded Gov. Schwarzenegger -- has put $3 billion into a 10-year energy switch-over program. Small wonder that Turner called the two states "America's shining bright lights" -- and has pumped millions into privately-owned N.J. firm DT Solar.

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Tom Kuster, CEO of DT Solar, said his company was a speck on the map before the Southern billionaire showed up; but now, it's a force to be reckoned with. DT Solar clients include Merck and Estee Lauder; and its COO, Bruce Curtis, told "Morning Call" that it has plans to develop solar generation on parcels of Turner's property -- no small deal, as the TBS/TNT/CNN founder is America's top individual landowner.

And Turner's solar-powered vision is spreading: Ceradyne CRDN currently sells many of its industrial ceramics to the military for use as armor; but when peace comes, the firm has plans to increase manufacturing of solar-collection cells. "I think this is a real business," declared CEO Joel Moskowitz -- who pointed to China as a "main player" in the solar market. Applied Materials' AMAT chief Mike Splinter agreed, warning that "the U.S. does not have the lead" in the burgeoning technology -- and ought to take stock.