When Solyndra, a California based solar panel manufacturer, announced this week that it will file for bankruptcy, conservative media outlets immediately cheered the loss as evidence that solar power doesn't work. That couldn't be further from the truth.
Arizona-based First Solar is currently building its second U.S. factory, which will "roughly double the solar-panel maker's U.S. production capacity," according to the Wall Street Journal. The company is also investing in several large solar farms.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers announced in June that solar panels, which have great potential for increases in efficiency, could become most cost-effective electricity source within a decade, even challenging fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency also recently said solar generators, including both solar photovoltaic and solar-thermal plants, may produce most of the world's electricity within 50 years.
Despite all this, conservative media claim solar power isn't worth pursuing.
STEVE MILLOY: Half the time solar panels don't even work. Half the time they do work they produce expensive electricity. This is just lose, lose, lose, for America. We can't do it here.
MILLOY: Solar panels don't make economic sense anywhere. They are strictly a luxury item.
The next evening Milloy called Solyndra "the poster child for the disaster of green jobs and clean energy."
Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh said he didn't understand why Solyndra had to shut down because "the sun is still there":
RUSH LIMBAUGH: [T]he prime ingredient for a solar company is still there... the sun! The sun is still there. It may be behind clouds, but it's still there. Wait a minute now, don't just let this go! This is crucial! Solar power comes from the sun; the sun is still there. And yet this company shuts down because of global economic conditions? The sun is still putting out as much as it ever did. Just like in Las Vegas. And yet they can't harness it. It's there every day. Doesn't cost anything - it's just there.
As for Solyndra, experts reportedly said "a consolidation of the industry was inevitable":
Experts said that solar energy was still among the most promising of all of the alternative energy sources, but they added that due diligence was necessary to pick the best companies. Some said a consolidation of the industry was inevitable.
"There used to be 50 car companies in this country, but very few survived," said Bill Bathe, chief executive of U.S. Energy Services, a Minneapolis energy management company. "For consumers, this is an exciting time, but for investors, this is still a very high-risk stage. You may hit a home run or be part of the experiment that delivers no payout."
U.S. companies are feeling the pressure from Chinese solar manufacturers, who have helped push down prices by 42 percent this year.
The New York Times reported that "much of China's clean energy success lies in aggressive government policies that help this crucial export industry in ways most other governments do not," including "heavily subsidized land and loans." Those subsidies are part of a comprehensive policy agenda set by the Chinese government, which "sends clear signals to investors," according to a Brookings Institution report:
Critical to China's success is its articulation of a comprehensive and long-term state clean energy build out policy that sends clear signals to investors. Through its 12th Five Year Plan, China has identified "new energy" as one among seven "strategic emerging industries" and will invest $760 billion over the next 10 years in this sector alone. A range of complementary policies will guide these investment decisions, including the Renewable Energy Law, national demand-side management regulations, and pilot carbon taxes, among others. China has swiftly made itself a clean energy power, in large part by ensuring the availability of copious, affordable capital at a time it has been short in the United States.
And the Deutche Bank Climate Change Advisors said in a recent report that there's a lot more the U.S. could do to create a policy framework that encourages clean energy investment:
Countries with more 'TLC' - transparency, longevity and certainty - in their climate policy frameworks will attract more investment and will build new, clean industries, technologies and jobs faster than their policy lagging counterparts. This is particularly evident in countries such as Germany and China, who have emerged as global leaders in low carbon technologies and investment in recent years. In stark contrast, a politically divided US Congress and vast budget deficit has resulted in very little significant regulation at the Federal level, with substantial implications for emerging clean technology industries in the US. This climate policy inertia has existed for some time in the US now, with activity on this front largely taking place at the state level. We have long argued that the states must continue to press ahead with climate legislation, but a negative effect of this trend is a patchwork of inconsistent state policies. The net effect is that while Congress stumbles, the US stands to fall behind.