Thursday, June 28, 2012

Another subsidized solar company bites the dust temporarily

I just heard on radio headlines that a solar energy firm in Colorado has gone under. Abound Solar.

It's that vicious cycle I keep talking about. Economy picks up steam and fossil fuels get more expensive. Alternative energy starts to look good, but it's still just a bit more expensive than even the higher cost fossil fuels are during economic upturn. Then the cost of energy, among other things, knocks down the economy again. Economy goes soft and the cost of fossil fuels comes down. Some alternative energy firms go bust.

Demand for alternative energy, in face of inexpensive fossil fuels like natural gas, gets even softer during economic downturns that tend to lead to lower energy demand and prices. Another problem is inexpensive solar collectors on the market from China. This makes it harder for domestic manufacturing.

Hopefully these are temporary problems and eventually the technology for solar energy will improve so it becomes competitive with fossil fuel. Maybe these problems will just be a footnote in history.

Natural gas is getting quite cheap, thanks in part to things like fracking. It's hard for things like solar energy to compete; at least temporarily.

Over the long run, technology can march forward. Remember Moores Law, which tends to make computing power cheaper? Something similar can apply to solar, I would guess. Maybe solar will become cheaper than natural gas and other fossil fuels someday. Then this problem of subsidized solar going bust may only become a historical footnote.

I also read that most of the loan money wasn't yet spent by Abound Solar, so taxpayers were spared by careful loan management, for the most part.

That vicious energy price cycle. Gasoline prices go up and then down with demand and the economy. The super long run still looks good for things like solar.

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