After years of being on the market solar and alternative energy schemes seemed to finally catch on as photovoltaic installations were up 75 percent last year, and a recent industry report says solar, along with wind and biofuels, continued another banner year. Can this growth continue in this market?
Solar panels, while still expensive to install(they cost about $12,000 per building depending on size), have come down in the last few years due to strong competition and some government incentives. Danny Kennedy, a businessman running a solar energy firm, adds that most solar panels in homes pay for themselves in three to seven years.
But the recent world-wide economic downturn has dropped stock prices of green companies 60 percent to 70 percent last year, and the credit crunch made it hard for companies and individuals. Some companies have failed to get funding and some have closed down.
Help may be on the way as President Obama's stimulus plan provides 30 percent cash rebate for individuals or companies installing solar energy systems, and it provides loan guarantees that will bring down interest rates for companies who are building new solar installations.
"It's going great. Really, in the big-picture, long-term sense, the only way is up, because we need it. And this year might see a bit of a slowdown in the growth." Danny Kennedy, Sungevity Solar
"Everybody, I think, knows that this is going to be the hottest part of the power market for the next 10 years."-- Obert Fishman, CEO, Asura
"... goes to show that this is not only green for our environment. This is green, also, for our economy, because it's a job-creator."-- Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), California
"We take hundreds of thousands of mirrors. We have them out in the desert. They reflect light up onto a boiler, and the boiler generates steam and turns a turbine, and that turbine produces electricity."-- John Woolard, CEO, BrightSource Energy
1. What is solar energy? How do you heat and cool your home?
2. What percentage of the nation’s energy comes from solar, wind and biofuels?
1. Do you think the government should do more to encourage individuals and companies to invest in solar and alternative energy? Why or why not?
2. Name forms of alternative energy. What are the pros and cons of these types of energy?
3. Solar energy business may be getting more consolidated; do you think this is a good idea? Why or why not?
4. Name some other industries that have been affected by the economy. How are they weathering the downturn?