Considering my electrical background, this administration sure has given me some easy things to write about lately. My last piece on the subject of electrical was on the un-sustainability of the Chevy Volt and now comes the news that Solyndra, who received over 535 million in loan guarantees from the US tax payer, has filed for bankruptcy and laid off all 1,100 employees (I thought these loans were going to create 3,000 jobs?). Once again the tax payer gets fried because of naïve policy.
I drove by the Solyndra plant just last week on my way back from cleaning out a storage facility I shut down in San Jose (another story) and was impressed by the architectural detail that went into those buildings. It's obvious that a lot of thought (and money) went into their design and construction. Unfortunately it's what's been happening on the inside of those pretty buildings that counts in this case. And the ugliness is now out in the open for all to see.
About four or five years ago I was told by colleagues, employees and home owners alike that I should expand into the solar end of the business -- that it was the wave of the future -- that it would work this time. Sure, I could have played the dog-pile-on-the-crony-dollar game, but it appeared to me that the only way to keep the power on in that industry (at the time) was through the use of heavy government subsidies. That was an instant -- "caution high-voltage" -- sign for me to stay away. Sure in hindsight I could have made a few quick bucks but I think my resistance to getting involved has proven correct.
Not that I have anything against solar technology (believe me I love electrical innovation) but if something can't sustain itself in the free market after its mass consumption of capital and its continued subsidies, then common sense says that when the money gets turned-off (and it always does) it's going to get dark pretty quick. Worse yet, if those continued subsidies are still unable to provide enough power ("hope" won't do the trick) to keep the lights on, then it's obvious the meter is going to stop spinning. In the case of Solyndra, the taxpayer is on the hook for the final bill.
There is one other problem that I can see from a consumer standpoint. Maybe I'm naïve, but if I wanted to put my money into a large "investment" that would offset, or eliminate my electric bills, wouldn't I be better off investing it in a small condo or something else that would actually pay for those electric bills forever? Isn't "investing" in solar panels basically just pre-paying for the next 30 years of electricity (at which point the panels need to be replaced)? Am I the only one out there that thinks this way?