Skip to comments.Fury over Solyndra loan threatens to sunset solar investments
Posted on 09/18/2011 3:25:32 PM PDT by jazusamo
Political fury over a failed $535 million loan guarantee to an Obama administration-backed solar company is threatening to poison the well for future green investments.
The Obama administration is doubling down on its support for renewable energy, stressing that it will move forward on more loans like the one to Solyndra, the California-based company that announced its bankruptcy late last month. In fact, as many as 14 new loan guarantees from the Energy Department nine of which are for solar projects could be finalized by the end of the month.
Republicans ratcheted up their criticism of the administration over Solyndra this week, releasing a series of emails they say show that the White House tried to rush a final decision on the companys financing so that Vice President Biden could announce approval of the loan guarantee at the September 2009 groundbreaking for the companys new factory.
The White House has dismissed the allegations, arguing that the emails were a scheduling matter and had no impact on the decision to finalize the loan guarantee.
Still, Republicans have continued to pummel the administration on the Solyndra bankruptcy; Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committees Oversight and Investigations subscommittee, said Friday that Jonathan Silver, executive director of the Energy Departments Loan Programs Office, should be fired.
Were not done with this issue yet and were going to see where this takes us, full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) told The Hill Thursday.
The solar industry is worried the fight will debilitate government support for a nascent industry.
The Solyndra bankruptcy has definitely given the Obama administration and the solar industry a black eye, theres no denying that, said M.J. Shiao, a solar market analyst at GTM Research.
Still, although many have offered gloom-and-doom predictions about the U.S. solar industry, analysts say the reality is far more complicated.
They stress that the future of the industry is bright, while underscoring the many challenges that face companies like Solyndra.
Shiao said the demand for solar is growing in the United States, noting that the number of solar installations doubled from 2009 to 2010 and is expected to further increase in 2011.
The demand side is very bright, Shiao said.
But solar manufacturing, Shiao said, is another story. China has invested billions in its solar industry and U.S. companies are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the countrys cheap solar panels.
The biggest hurdle for U.S. manufacturers is that they have to compete with these giant Chinese companies that have access to huge amounts of capital, cheaper labor and more relaxed environmental policies, Shiao said.
U.S. companies are faced with plummeting solar panel prices that make it very difficult to stay in business.
One way the United States can compete with China is developing better and cheaper solar panels, Shiao said.
You cant really beat China at its own game. Its going to be very difficult for an American company to be able to compete in the global market, Shiao said. So what U.S. manufacturers have to do is differentiate themselves technologically.
That requires major investments in research and development, said Peter Lynch, an investment analyst who specializes in the solar industry. In addition, he said, policymakers need to help develop a predictable investment climate by offering consistent tax credits and other subsidies for the industry, as well as policies that encourage reliance on low-carbon electricity.
Democrats, including Obama, have been pushing for a standard that would require a certain percentage of U.S. electricity to come from wind, solar and other low-emissions technologies for years.
The proposals face major opposition from Republicans and others, who argue that the government should not be providing incentives for renewables. The Solyndra debacle has only hardened Republicans opposition to the renewable energy loan guarantee program.
Should we be in the business of facilitating something that should be in the purview of the private sector? And if were picking winners and losers, then were going to make mistakes, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) told The Hill in the Capitol Thursday.
The Obama administration stuck to its clean-energy agenda this week, despite the full-frontal attack from Republicans.
We have to be aggressive in competing in the global economy, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Thursday. And, you know, high-tech clean-energy industries are going to be key to winning this century economically. So he is absolutely committed to doing that.
Energy Department spokesman Damien LaVera told The Hill that the solar industry could develop into a multi-trillion market in the coming decades.
We have a choice we can either compete in a global marketplace or we can buy these things from other countries, he said.
The gubmint Truth Department has been working overtime, but the crap they're producing just won't fly. A "multi-trillion dollar industry" that can't make a dollar on its own. Right.
Correct. If it had the potential of being a multi-trillion dollar industry billionaires couldn’t invest money in it fast enough. As it is they want the taxpayers to finance the R&D then invest if it looks promising.
The argument that the USA needs to compete with China in producing solar panels is suspect.
If China can produce solar panels for 1/2 our cost, then solar electricity might become competitive in the USA relative to fossil/nuclear/hydro.
No the reason Obama wants solar manufacturing is to reward his supporters like he did in Solyndra.
I have big doubts that solar will ever be competitive, but if China produces the panels for 1/10 our cost and that makes solar power competitive, who cares?
“”Shiao said the demand for solar is growing in the United States, noting that the number of solar installations doubled from 2009 to 2010 and is expected to further increase in 2011.
The demand side is very bright, Shiao said.”””
The only reason the demand is bright is from the huge government expenditures to buy or subsidize solar energy.
Without Obama socialism solar energy would be nothing.
I agree. The chance of solar energy becoming competitive is slim and the initial cost of the panels is only a part of it.
As taxpayers wise up to these money wasting shenanigans and come clamoring to the government to stop it, the GOP will hear before Democrats even acknowledge that anybody is speaking.
It would take a lot of area to deploy practical solar collection. A building typically needs a lot more energy than it gets as sunlight on its exterior. The deserts might be a handy place to do this, as the skies are seldom cloudy and few people care about the view, but environmentalists would have kittens about what all this new shade would do to rare twisty cactuses and armadillos and the like. We’d be talking many square miles of the stuff, I’d think.
The company name escapes me now but they wanted to put in a large solar field east of Barstow. That is desolate and in the middle of nowhere, perfectly suited for a solar field.
The enviros raised so much hell about desert animals (I believe the tortoise was one) and plants the company gave up rather than fight them.
What most people see in a desolate desert is sacred to enviro-nazis.
There is some justification for governments to sponsor basic R&D — including research that might lead to valuable patents.
Otherwise, government should stick to its knitting:
* using diplomatic muscle to ensure that competing nations respect patents;
* regulatory reform, to remove barriers;
* providing basic infrastructure;
* providing training and education for the future solar workforce (even that shouldn't be exclusively a government undertaking).
If true, could be some of the best $500 million the government has ever thrown away.
I could see investing some money in R & D. But investing money in the current technology????? It’s just like throwing money down the sewer!
“Make your meter spin backwards!” LOL!
You’re exactly right. What the hell are these people doing standing around while zero STEALS our money and gives it to his friends????
Wait - it isn’t our money ..... it’s our kids and grandkids money that they borrowed from China before they were born.
What is worse than Obama doing this is the GOP not SCREAMING from the rooftops about this.
This solar garbage is purely experimental anyway. There is no good battery to save the energy produced. Until there is, this is just alchemy
The GOP is in on the game, hello. Look, when it’s rotten from the top down, it’s all rotten.