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Green Meltdown Continues

Solar’s bad year continues as yet another solar company’s ambitious projects prove unprofitable. Fledgling solar provider BrightSource Energy canceled an IPO at the last minute, admitting that it couldn’t find buyers at the expected price. And BrightSource is not alone in its stock woes—the New York Times reports that leading companies like First Solar and Solar Millenium have seen their share prices drop by 93 and 96 percent, respectively, from their heyday.

These are familiar problems for the solar industry. The large scale and high cost of solar projects scares off investors, leaving companies dependent on government subsides to stay competitive. And those projects have no alternate source of funding as subsidies dry up or are diverted to traditional energy sources. Making matters worse, the late 2000s solar boom has increased competition from within as well, as the glut of new solar projects has pushed prices too low for many companies to make a profit.

The Times, among others, is predicting a wave of solar consolidations as these smaller companies are pushed out of the market. Maybe so. At the very least, the solar excitement seems to be dying down. It looks like the energy of the future may have a few more years to wait. For now, solar energy works perfectly — if governments pass laws requiring utilities to purchase solar power, offer financing, and subsidize solar companies when all else fails.

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