A Distracted Washington is Missing an Opportunity

Congress will attempt to grill Solyndra executives today to figure out why the ill-fated company received over 500 millions dollars from the Department of Energy loan guarantee program.  Just yesterday, First Solar Inc announced that it could not receive a DOE loan guarantee for its Topaz solar power project in California, which would destroy over 6 square miles of the Carrizo Plain.  First Solar's stock dropped to record lows as disappointed investors walked away. But First Solar's stock had already been dropping because of worries that the Solyndra scandal and a faulty White House investment strategy would undermine First Solar's other loan guarantees, including one for the Desert Sunlight project near Joshua Tree National Park.  Obama's energy policy has converted our fledgling clean energy sector into a casino, where big rollers can cart off public land and taxpayer money, and losers go bankrupt or watch their stock prices tumble?

The Obama administration chose to back specific projects and companies.  It's not just money for research and development, which would be a wise investment to spur innovation.  The White House is throwing money at specific solar projects and companies that will create specific facilities, but this policy will not create the broader solar market to sustain growth in the solar sector over time. 

If the committee investigating Solyndra has the time, they should walk or bike a couple of miles to the other side of the National Mall, where the DOE's Solar Decathlon is being held this weekend.  Model solar-powered homes show off innovation, efficiency, and design in this competition to create an ideal green home.  Congress and the White House should ask -- what policies do we need to make solar panels accessible to consumers, not just giant corporations dependent on government loans.  Feed-in-tariffs and Property Assessed Clean Energy would be a start  -- paying local green energy producers and letting homeowners and small businesses finance their own energy improvements.

Wal-Mart recently announced plans to install rooftop solar on over 130 stores in California by the end of 2013.  The company has already reduced expenses by a million dollars with its solar program.  This savings and efficiency is scalable to smaller business and homeowners.  Maybe someday Wal-Mart will not just have solar panels on its roof, but on its store shelves, as well, feeding a bigger market for clean energy.  And then we can leave the desert alone, sparing its beauty and solitude for future generations.


  1. Here is an interesting "bearish" take on First Solar's stock and it's current situation:


    Bill Mcdonald


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