Solar power might be down, but not out

As it was for plug-in electric vehicles, the end of 2011 and changeover to 2012 hasn’t been exactly cheerful. Low EV sales and controversy around the Chevy Volt fires haven’t been go0d news for the green car industry. Solar power, probably the most important part of the renewable energy industry, has had some bad rap, too.

The Solyndra scandal based on the hefty loan from the Obama administration and Dept. of Energy to a company losing money, Evergreen’s movement of manufacturing to China, and First Solar’s abrupt management change and “airball” earnings, have not gone over well in gaining support from investors and other stakeholders. However, there are a few hopeful signs:

  • Small-scale solar benefited from dropping technology prices and rising utility-generated power prices.
  • Industry estimates show solar energy employing around 100,000, from engineers, to developers to financiers to installers.
  • Home owners are having solar panels installed in growing numbers, and they’re aided by state and private incentive programs. The Sierra Club in Southern California recently received a generous incentive check from a solar installer for the sizable number of members who recently became customers.
  • There is a good deal of competition now to reach this market, and overseas markets. Chinese solar companies are competing with domestics, taking business away with their reduced prices, and causing local US companies to get more innovative in their offerings and marketing strategies.
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