At the other extreme to my prior post, every time you bring up the issue of solar energy and how the price of PV is rapidly falling, with it rapidly catching up with wind energy (already cheaper then fossil fuels in certain situations, article on that here, the study refered to here), or how renewables are far more economically viable than nuclear power opponents bring up Solyndra at every turn. For those who are confused this was a solar PV manufacturer who went bankrupt in the US last year and the right wing media have been making hay about it ever since.
What they don’t seem to get is we live in a capitalist economy (oh the irony!). In a capitialist economy companies go bankrupt all the time. This is particularly true in a fast moving situation, where some companies suddenly find themselves out manoeuvred by competitors (or where politically motivated decisions are made to undermine the industry). The solar PV industry has been in a high state of flux for the last few years with major advances in technology, as well as significant drops in prices. In such a situation, there are winners, and losers. Solyndra was one of the losers.
I mean how many fossil fuel companies have gone bankrupt over the years? Texaco went Bankrupt back in 1987. If another goes down tomorrow will all these same right wingers be saying “fossil fuels have failed” and start putting up wind farms? How many nuclear power companies have gone bankrupt? Not really a fair question since they don’t really operate in the real world of market capitalism. But British Energy the one nuclear energy company that did step into the realm of capitalism, despite being essentially given its reactors by the exchequer and having its responsibilities for decommissioning and waste disposal waved, still managed to go bankrupt (effectively twice!) in just 7 years! Leading to its defacto renationalisation and buy out by a French State owned EDF.
So while yes, the bankruptcy of Solyndra (and several other solar firms recently) is a set back and does demonstrate a need for perhaps a re-think of our energy strategy (hence why I favour a carbon tax and making the nuclear industry pay a little closer to the true costs of nuclear), the mere fact that PV firms exist now in a world where they can go bankrupt demonstrates how much the industry has moved on in the last decade or so. Solar energy is no longer just for hippies!
While the Solar industry is out in the real world making a buck and paying the rent, its brother the nuclear industry is still living in its parents attic. Unfortunately for them (in the UK), the grumpy uncle (lib dems) has just moved in and is pressuring them to grow up, move out and go get itself a proper job.