I doubt the facts are going to matter much now that Republicans have latched onto the Solyndra solar “scandal.” After a few dozen Solyndra hearings like the one in the House today, nobody’s going to remember the Bush administration was just as hellbent to make this loan. Nobody’s going to care that all successful loan programs have failures, that the Solyndra venture was barely 1% of the Energy Department’s $40 billion clean-energy portfolio, that there will still be over $2 billion in reserves for busted loans no matter how Solyndra shakes out. That’s politics.
But I do want to push back against the idea that Solyndra’s failure reflects some kind of failure of the solar industry. That’s just wrong. The solar industry is on fire, thanks to the same collapse in prices that doomed Solyndra.
It’s true that these are tough times for solar-panel manufacturers. Solyndra had a cool technology, but it couldn’t produce panels cheap enough to compete with Chinese manufacturers that received over $30 billion in government funding last year. But in just the last two months, about 7,000 megawatts of new solar projects were added to the U.S. pipeline. That’s the equivalent of seven nuclear reactors, which is seven more than we’ve built in the last three decades. And that doesn’t include residential projects, like the unprecedented “Solar Strong” effort to install photovoltaic panels on 160,000 rooftops on military housing that was just announced last week. The U.S. solar market doubled last year, and it’s expected to double again this year. How many other industries are growing that fast in this economy?
It never ceases to amaze me how Washington wise men seem to think of renewable energy as some kind of gee-whiz Jetsons technology. I was on some TV show with Sam Donaldson after Fukushima, and he scoffed that maybe we’d have wind and solar someday, but not in his lifetime. Dude! It’s here! Wind is now a bigger employer than coal. Solar is finally scaling up, which is why its costs are falling down.
The collapse of Solyndra is an embarrassing bump on the road to a clean-energy future. Maybe it’s a coincidence that the politicians who are hyping Solyndra tend to be the politicians who want to close that road. But we’re getting farther down the road than people realize. And it’s taking us where we need to go.
More at the source: http://swampland.time.com/2011/09/14/do … z1Y2NGKpk1
I agree with most of what you have written....but it should be noted that in Jan 09(Bush's last month)....the committee that approves these loans rejected the loan for concerns of their ability to pay back the loan....6 months later...they had the money.....I think the future is going to be solar power.
I don´t understand why there is so much focus on solar energy. The commercial gap between solar and conventionel (fossile, nuclear) energy is very large. Photovoltaic energy needs more that 1 USD/kWh to have a business case, that is 20 times more than conventionel energy.
The other renewable energy - wind power - is much much closer to conventional energy (only twice at 10 cents/kWh compared to 5 cents/kWh conventionel).
Why not pay attention first to wind power. Not too far in the future gas will sell for 8 USD/gallon and at that time whe should have a break even with wind power.
At the end of the day it is all a matter of money, of economic feasibility.
I'm not sure how competitive we'll be in the short- to medium-term with respect to solar technology, in terms of "our" companies, but I think it's exciting that China and a lot of other countries' investment means that efficiency gains and manufacturing scale will come sooner than any of would have probably projected.
Thanks for the article, kerryg - provides much-needed perspective when we're about to be embroiled in another bout of spun controversy.
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