The Future Of Solar Power

Charles EadieThe World Bank once reported that 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are located in China. If anybody should invest and specialize in clean-energy, it should be them, right? Well they have. And they have done so successfully. Their solar energy production has been streamlined enough that when Solyndra spent $535 million of U.S. federal loan money on building a factory, they realized that they couldn’t compete with the cheaper, more commensurately effective solar panels from China.

Worldwide, the rooftop solar energy market is growing. From 2012 to 2017, it’s projected to grow from producing 15,941 megawatts to 26,732 megawatts. India and China, two of the most rapid industrializing countries in human history, continue to achieve their aggressive solar installation goals. Their policies and economies have reduced greenhouse emissions and in some places have spurned the growth of domestic solar equipment manufacturers. Japan is also investing heavily in solar energy, especially after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, which pushed the Japanese to look for cleaner, safer power alternatives.

In America, especially after the fall of Solyndra, investment in solar energy hasn’t fared as well. In the Global Cleantech 100, a list of 100 private companies that are believed to shape the clean energy market in the next five to ten years, solar energy went from making up twelve companies in the list in 2012, to making only six in 2013. This is a sharp decline, considering how Solar energy accounted for nearly 40% of cleantech investment in 2008.

A caveat of this though is that American investors still invest in solar companies who offer installation and financing services to consumers and businesses. These solar companies allow people to rent equipment or allow them to pay as they go. For the present, paying as one goes is preferable to making an investment now and waiting for a return twenty years from now. Four of the six solar companies on the Cleantech 100 have this kind of financing policy.