Shocker: BP quits solar power industry

bp Elites Go Sailin'

Maybe they wasted too much money on Yacht races?

BP Exits the Solar Industry (via Planet Gore)

By Greg Pollowitz

Bloomberg:

BP Plc, Europe’s second-largest oil company, will shut its solar power unit and quit the business entirely after 40 years because it’s become unprofitable.

The company will wind down the unit, BP Solar, over several months, Mike Petrucci, the unit’s chief executive officer, told staff in an internal letter last week. About 100 employees will be affected.

BP Solar is withdrawing from an industry that’s facing oversupply and price pressures after Asian competitors increased production. Panel prices plunged 48 percent this year, helping tip three U.S. makers including Solyndra LLC into bankruptcy, and Solon SE (SOO1), Germany’s first listed solar company, filed for insolvency last week.

“The continuing global economic challenges have significantly impacted the solar industry, making it difficult to sustain long-term returns for the company,” Petrucci said in the letter.

The rest here.

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103 thoughts on “Shocker: BP quits solar power industry

  1. I remember when BP Amoco got into pre pregs to use in building sailboats. Big oil will always try new industries and leave some sectors that don’t make money. If they stay in solar, the business risk is subsidies.

  2. I guess after the Gulf of Mexico oils spill and all, they couldn’t get money from Obama for their idiotic solar panel business. Why did it take forty years for them to get the message that it’s a loser?

  3. As a former owner of a solar company, I understand this completely. only one solar application makes sense: heating water. The idea that solar panels can do anything other than serve as a boutique power source is simply boneheaded.

  4. Finally! Now, BP, the ‘rest’ of your inanes in/with/around the cAGW-scam should also be cleaned out. Plenty thanks for doing so in advance. :-D
    Brgds from Sweden
    //TJ

  5. How about that 25 year warranty on your panels? Maybe BP will honor it, but how about all of the companies that are going belly up?

  6. Their going to play this as just “Big Oil” doing something nefarious and immoral to support their oil prices.

  7. pat said @ December 21, 2011 at 10:31 am

    “As a former owner of a solar company, I understand this completely. only one solar application makes sense: heating water. The idea that solar panels can do anything other than serve as a boutique power source is simply boneheaded.”

    Almost completely agree. However, I’d hardly call PV a “boutique” power source where the electricity supply companies charge so much for connection to the grid that they make solar power more economic. A friend in NSW was quoted more than double the cost of his PV array for a grid connection. It’s not huge; he uses propane for space heating, cooking and hot water.

  8. I often think that Governments and Company’s should employ reasonably educated, street smart lay people instead of idiotic professionals.

    My self for example:

    I predicted the financial crash many years ago by the actions of governments and the banksters.
    I said the well before the invasion of Iraq it was a huge mistake due to the pathetic WOMD and yellow cake evidence and the fact that Saudi Arabia was the source of the 911 hijackers.
    I said the well before Kyoto and Global warming grabbed the Western world governments by the Nuts it was a huge hoax and absolutely stupid to expect the West to go it alone.
    I said the that wind power would be a huge and expensive boondoggle and drive energy cost through the roof.
    I said solar power will prove to be a huge and expensive mistake.
    I said solar power will will not be made in ANY western country competitively enough to manufacture it in the long term and it will fail.
    I said solar power will be manufactured in China cheaply and sold to the west expensively.
    I read and follow the news and think what the hell that will not work because………….

    Call me a Skeptic with common sense and the ability to see the obvious.
    the same common sense of most of the readers here at WUWT and skeptics in general have.

    If any Government, organization or wealthy individual wants to hire me , I’m available.
    My track record is 90+%
    Futurist Dave.

  9. Actually the big problem is that the WEST cannot compete with the solar products coming out of China… Nothing else. If China sells panels for 1/2 your cost well your company is hosed.
    I thought you guys were all for freemarkets driving the economy.

  10. just a quote from the press release:

    “BP Solar is withdrawing from an industry that’s facing oversupply and price pressures after Asian competitors increased production. Panel prices plunged 48 percent this year, helping tip three U.S. makers including Solyndra LLC into bankruptcy, and Solon SE (SOO1), Germany’s first listed solar company, filed for insolvency last week.”

  11. Dear Barry

    “Their going to play this as just “Big Oil” doing something nefarious and immoral to support their oil prices.”

    Awe thats so nice of you… Merry Christmas my friend.

  12. Dear Tom
    “The bottom line is that it’s the bottom line that counts.
    Being ‘green’ costs too much green.”
    Totally wrong. Supply and Demand.
    yours Harvey

  13. BP is not any longer a Brit or even EU business. Check out the shareholding readily available online. Anthony – you are a stickler for details, normally.

  14. harvey said @ December 21, 2011 at 10:57 am

    “Actually the big problem is that the WEST cannot compete with the solar products coming out of China… Nothing else. If China sells panels for 1/2 your cost well your company is hosed.
    I thought you guys were all for freemarkets driving the economy.”

    Unfortunately, the West hasn’t had a free market economy since the 19thC. And the Western governments have squandered taxes for the last 50 years. Currently, China has a policy of jobs at any cost, a policy that will eventually collapse under demands from the hoi poloi for a better quality of environment as their prosperity continues to rise. The West handed over its IP and manufacturing to China for free and the Chinese are taking full advantage.

    It’s an interesting little planet we live on :-)

  15. Well… BP has to do something to make up the expense after paying protection money to a certain Chicago politicians shake-down fund.

  16. I’ve got 2.5kW of BP Solar panels on the roof, been there since ’03…

    No, the Chinese do not believe in a level playing field. Are they ‘subsidizing’ solar panel production? Yeah, maybe. What’s the best model for the rest of us in the long run – is the loss of production capacity in the West worse than the benefit to Western consumers through availability of a cheap commodity product funded by the Chinese government?

    For any individual product, probably the latter. For an economy as a whole where it involves hollowing out entire sectors, far more debatable.

    Will there eventually be a PV solar production process – ‘printable’ panels, for instance – that’ll render the Chinese investment in silicon PV moot?

  17. Well I would like a dollar for every media report on the profitability of this or that segment of the Solar power industry; and another dollar for each asserted reason for the demise of this or that participant. So BP solar is going ppffft because panel prices dropped 48 percent.

    Hey ! Earth to Bloomberg; a whole lot more solar energy companies (besides Solyndra) will go belly up; UNLESS solar panel prices come down a whole lot more than they have. The Solyndra apologists blamed China for bombing the prices on them. It can be concluded then, that Solyndra would never have been able to make a profit, unless solar power was much more expensive than it already is. Hey; the idea for replacing some already existing technology, in a given market place such as energy, is to have a more efficient, cheaper energy source than the entrenched competition. You dont replace an existing industry by being more expensive, and less efficient.

    In Solyndra’s case, they might have been able to make their solar panels for zero cost (let’s imagine), and they still would have gone belly up, because nobody in their right mind, would ever buy a Solyndra solar panel, and use it to occupy the precious solar insolation space on their roof or other valuable real estate. You only get 1 kW per square metre (max), so if you don’t put up the highest power conversion efficiency receivers in that space, you must be crazy.

    Long before Solyndra became a political and financial scam; it was a science and engineering scam, and Nobel Laureate Energy Secretary Chu, should have seen that, and nipped the whole fraud in the bud.
    Well a Nobel Prize for Optical Trapping, that somebody else invented anyway, doesn’t necessarily make one an expert on PV solar energy collection.

    Solyndra used the yuppy thin film CIGS PV material; the acronym for Copper, Indium Gallium Selenide. The world record Laboratory conversion effciency achieved for CIGS material is about 19%. Practical cells seem to be more in the 11-13 percent range; but it’s “cheap” they claim, and you don’t use very much of those exotic materials; well compared to silicon; which largely occupies the world’s tropical deserts.

    So since the material is cheap, Solyndra decided to use more of it, than they really needed; pi times as much as it turns out, since instead of a simple flat panel of their cheap goop, they filled the space with a cylindrical tube of the stuff, aimed at the same incoming solar beam. CIGS is claimed to be strongly solar absorbing, so one can conclude that the top side of the tube effectively shadows the bottom side of the tube which thereby doesn’t get much sun at all. So they coated the CIGS on the outside of a glass cylinder, and now they have pi times as much substrate glass, as well as pi times as much CIGS.
    Well actually it’s much worse than that because CIGS like many of the II-VI compounds such as Cadmium Selenide, just doesn’t like moisture; which happens to be a permanent constituent of the earth’s atmosphere.
    So they enclosed the CIGS tube inside a second larger tube, and hermetically sealed them to protect the CIGS from destruction.
    That’s now 2pi times as much glass as for a flat plate silicon panel. Making glass, is of course a somewhat energy consuming process, not vastly different from making silicon. Yes CIGS is much cheaper than silicon, I am sure.

    Those cyclindrical tubes of course cast shaows, as the sun moves around them, so you have to space themn apart so they dont shade each other; so that is even more valuable real estate you have to dedicate to this boondoggle, impractical scheme.

    In short, Solyndra never had other than a Rube Goldberg solar panel to sell, in the first place; and my apologies to Rube for associating his name with such incompetence.

    How come Physics whizz Chu didnt know this, and stop wasting taxpayer’s funds on the scam.

    With PV solar energy, virtually nothing matters except the conversion efficiency, because that is what determines how much area you have to sacrifice to solar collection.

    I recently attended a solar energy Symposium, at the University of California, Merced. At that meeting, a new record conversion efficiency for multijunction solar cells was announced.

    43.5 % or thereabouts was reported for a triple junction cell; that of course is a triple bandgap cell, to efficiently convert a wider swath of the solar energy continuum spectrum of energies.
    A thin Gallium Arsenide cell process was also reported, shoing that lower materials usage is not the exclusive domain of materials that you can spray on anything, out of a garden hose.

    Fron the UC Santa Barbara Team, came a report on another wide bandgap, high conversion efficiency material, a GaN/InGaN structure; some chap named Nakamura was heavily involved with that Team. I almost got lulled into thinking I was watching an LED process paper, rather than a solar cell one; but it was pointed out in another paper, that good solar cells should also be good LEDs; well not necessarily of visible radiation. Indirect materials such as Silicon are of course an exception; which is why they have efficiency limits.

    The newer exotic materials, and Non-Imaging optical systems point to more effective usage of these materials, to get higher power conversion efficiencies, and better use of real estate.

    Cheap low efficiency solar panels; will always be a drag on the use of solar energy, whose supply is limited by the sun.

    But it will never replace existing energy sources, unless it is cost competitive; and that usually means on an energy capital basis, not some economist shell shuffling game.

    We got to where we are now without external help from somewhere else (ET), so we know that we have had a net energy availability gain, since primordial times. Substitute sources, simply will never succeed, unless they too can hoist themselves by their own shoe laces, without cost hiding subsidy from an already effective source.
    It makes no sense to consume already existing energy supplies, to access other sources, that make even less total energy available to do the useful stuff, we use energy for.

  18. Latitude YOU said: I hope this means we don’t have to see any more of those stupid ads on TV……………………

    What is bugging me amongst many of these green clean give me your money schemes being seen on TV is the BUY SOLAR NOW before the carbon tax arrives. I distinctly remember hearing the government say they would pounce on any company that did this …. blaming proce rises on the due to arrive carbon tax……. but there it is, plain as the nose on Julia’s face!

  19. But solar power has so much potential.
    Potentially, if you cover acres and acres of land with panels, and potentially if the sun shines, and potentially if you make some of them in the US, and potentially if you mandate and subsidize it, then potentially you can have some fraction of the power you could get from Illinois outlawed high BTU coal.

    Just look at all that potential. http://energy.gov/

  20. George E. Smith said @ December 21, 2011 at 11:32 am:
    “It makes no sense to consume already existing energy supplies, to access other sources, that make even less total energy available to do the useful stuff, we use energy for.”

    It never ceases to amaze me that so few people understand this most basic of concepts.

  21. harvey says:
    December 21, 2011 at 11:00 am
    “Dear Tom
    “The bottom line is that it’s the bottom line that counts.
    Being ‘green’ costs too much green.”
    Totally wrong. Supply and Demand.
    yours Harvey”

    Harvey, the demand in Germany, the biggest market, is artificially created by forcing every electricity ratepayer to pay 3.5 Eurocents more for a kWh; and this money pays for an artificially inflated tariff paid to every solar energy / wind energy producer.

    Without this cross-subsidy, there would be no demand.

    Politicians call these systems they create “free market solutions”; but that’s as Free as the Democratic People’s Republic Of North Korea is democratic.

  22. As long solar cells don´t really work during night i see no future for them and don´t let us start talking about solar radiation density during winter…..

  23. Look for BP to be excoriated by the Greenies now. Look for Gore to threaten to sit on the Board of Directors,including the CEO. I mean that literally!

  24. China is subsidizing their solar manufacturers and dumping the products on foreign markets below cost. The subsidies and Solyndra-style loans mean public risk for private profit for the Chinese people. Together with the dumping, this means every unit sold costs the Chinese citizens money.

    We can’t let this dump gap continue. If the Chinese are losing $25 billion a year, then we need to lose $50 billion a year. We cannot allow this imbalance. I demand tariffs, mandates, price supports and more insider loans. We can’t allow to China to take the lead in pissing more money down the green black hole than we do.

    ~More Soylent Green!

  25. Well, as President Obama said in 2008, Solar power is the future, within the next five years millions of new green sustainable jobs will have been created as the USA moves away from old polluting fossil fuels to clean and green and efficient solar and wind power”. Thats the trouble with supposedly super smart people, they usually turn out to have less about them than a stunned mullet.

    Well, a prophet he aint and this is supposed to be the most learned and deep thinking President ever? He not only got it wrong, he got it about as wrong as is humanly possible to get it, and not since the Captain of the Titanic gave the order for full speed ahead in an area stuufed with bergs has someone so supposedly smart got it so very wrong.

    Merry Xmas to all.

  26. Large companies like BP have lots of ways of knowing what is going on in Washington DC before the rest of us.

    My guess is that they know the end of subsidies is coming and they want out.

  27. pat says:
    December 21, 2011 at 10:31 am

    “As a former owner of a solar company, I understand this completely. only one solar application makes sense: heating water. The idea that solar panels can do anything other than serve as a boutique power source is simply boneheaded.”
    ======================================
    pat, I agree with your assessment of “boutique” power sources. My house was built in 1977 (the Carter era) when electricity was supposed to remain incredibly cheap. Alas, it is an all-electric home with ceiling electric radiant heat. It also had a roof mounted solar assist water heating system. This system thermostatically controlled the flow of propylene glycol through the roof mounted solar collectors to a heat exchange unit mounted next to the electric water heater. The other half of the system ran potable water through the heat exchanger to the water heater. I spent a fortune on plumbers keeping this damn system working. Finally I learned how to service it myself but even then stuff was always falling apart and needing replacement. You need pumps and hoses to recharge the system, roof mounted blow-out check valves were always in need of replacement, propylene glycol is ridiculously expensive, etc.

    In theory it’s a great idea. When it worked I actually had almost “free” hot water in the summer months. But that “free” hot water cost me dearly in terms of money and my time. So when the 30+ year old water heater started leaking it was a no-brainer. A replacement water heater with all the input and output connections would have cost me over $1,500. A simple 50 gal modern electric water heater only set me back $160. Of course the plumber screwed me but I haven’t noticed any significant change in my outrageous electric bill since the change. Maybe they make these systems smarter than they did 34 years ago, but the more complicated the system the more likely it will require costly service. I’ve played around with PV systems, too. Battery maintenance and replacement pretty much negates the benefit there. I’ve been impressed with passive solar designs for home heating and cooling.

  28. Dear rwct

    “Look for BP to be excoriated by the Greenies now. Look for Gore to threaten to sit on the Board of Directors,including the CEO. I mean that literally!”

    Why thank you rwct, I’m impressed by your prognostications. LOOK A DEER!!
    yours
    Harvey

  29. That’s what happens when EU countries reduce the subsidies for “green” technology and alternative energy, reduced profit follows.

    So it has nothing to do with supply and demand, unless you count the supply of subsidies as supply in supply and demand. :p

  30. Out of 79,700 BP employees only 100 would be affected (0.125%). BP is closing down rounding error. It’s not even enough to consider ‘green-washing.’

  31. Harvey says:

    “Maybe the USA should stop subsidying all the OIL companies”

    Oil companies pay more taxes than the average company so they aren’t subsidized, like Solyndra, etc. But thanx anyway, and keep playing. We enjoy the added site traffic.

  32. harvey says:
    December 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm
    Dear DirkH
    Maybe the USA should stop subsidying all the OIL companies :)
    yours
    Harvey

    Yeah.

    Oh wait, we don’t. The oil companies don’t get any subsidies from the federal government and don’t qualify for any special tax breaks.

    And they pay billions and billions in taxes.

    And you’re free to buy their products or not.

    ~More Soylent Green!

  33. The death of BP Solar is not cheering news.
    They had a reputation for producing the best panels. 80% output guaranteed for around 20 years and proof against golf ball sized hailstones at terminal velocity. These panels had many legitimate uses in remote power applications. The illegitimate use of PV in heavily subsidised home instillations and large scale grid destabilising commercial installations have caused the market to be flooded with cheap crap. When mass producing de-laminating trash in china, you don’t have to pay so much to handle the 3 tonnes of carbon tetrachloride involved in producing each tonne of polycrystalline silicon.

  34. George E. Smith; says:
    December 21, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Fine post. Your sarcastic references to no-clue-Chu are particularly apropos. Almost as bad as highwayman-Holder running the DOJ.

  35. Maybe they will also ditch that stupid fake sunflower logo

    and lose the phony “green” “beyond petroleum” slogan

    YOU’RE A PETROLEUM COMPANY, idiots

  36. harvey says:
    December 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm
    “Dear DirkH
    Maybe the USA should stop subsidying all the OIL companies :)
    yours
    Harvey”

    Fossil fuel companies pay taxes to other governments. They can deduce these payments from the taxes they would have to pay in the US. The green groups count this as subsidies, but it’s a normal process against double taxation that all internationally active companies use.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/03/the-dark-future-of-solar-electricity/#comment-817470

  37. Almost completely agree. However, I’d hardly call PV a “boutique” power source where the electricity supply companies charge so much for connection to the grid that they make solar power more economic. A friend in NSW was quoted more than double the cost of his PV array for a grid connection. It’s not huge; he uses propane for space heating, cooking and hot water.

    There are other boutique uses as well, traffic signs too far to serve power to, telemetry systems, etc. If you see a solar panel at the side of the road someplace, it’s probably not driven by green fantasies, it’s driven by economics.

  38. harvey said @ December 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    “Maybe the USA should stop subsidying all the OIL companies :)”

    Care to put a figure on those subsidies? Saudi Aramco, National Iranian, Petróleos de Venezuela, Gazprom, Rosneft, China National Petroleum, Petronas, Petrobras? I’d be surprised if the USA subsidises any of these “OIL” companies who just happen to control over 75% of world oil production.

  39. DirkH says:
    December 21, 2011 at 12:14 pm
    “And by coincidence, today the German solar-thermal and PV company Solar Millenium filed for bankruptcy as well. They wanted to build some project in California.”

    Looks like Solar Millenium got 2 bn federal US loan for that project – think Solyndra times four. (Just heard it on Dana Loesch’s show)

  40. Drill baby drill!
    Big companies should never forget what its core business is….Remember you must produce enough oil to burn all those, “convenient” for politicians only, built Wind Towers in the UK which are bankrupting the UK and killing old people.

  41. John-X said @ December 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    “Maybe they will also ditch that stupid fake sunflower logo and lose the phony “green” “beyond petroleum” slogan YOU’RE A PETROLEUM COMPANY, idiots”

    According to the Wiki-bloody-pedia:

    “BP p.l.c.[3][4] (LSE: BP, NYSE: BP) is a global oil and gas company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the third-largest energy company and fourth-largest company in the world measured by revenues and one of the six oil and gas “supermajors”.[5][6] It is vertically-integrated and is active in every area of the oil and gas industry, including exploration and production, refining, distribution and marketing, petrochemicals, power generation and trading. It also has major renewable energy activities, including in biofuels, hydrogen, solar and wind power.”

    Combined, ExxonMobil, BP & Shell account for only 10% of world oil production and 3% of oil reserves. Sounds like the oil business might only play a minor role in BP’s revenues.

  42. On a somewhat related note, since the likely decline of the type of subsidies discussed are probably a good part of the reason for BP’s withdrawal from the solar market

    http://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/16192

    Chevy Volt Costing Taxpayers Up to $250K Per Vehicle
    Analyst: ‘This might be the most government-supported car since the Trabant’

  43. Combined, ExxonMobil, BP & Shell account for only 10% of world oil production and 3% of oil reserves. Sounds like the oil business might only play a minor role in BP’s revenues.

    No, what that means is that the big players in the oil business are the state oil companies in the Middle East and Latin America.

  44. “””” thepompousgit says:

    December 21, 2011 at 11:47 am

    George E. Smith said @ December 21, 2011 at 11:32 am:
    “It makes no sense to consume already existing energy supplies, to access other sources, that make even less total energy available to do the useful stuff, we use energy for.”

    It never ceases to amaze me that so few people understand this most basic of concepts. “””””

    Its’ even much worse than that pompous.

    Let’s say I even have a gain (slight). Perhaps I can use one barrel of oil eqivalent, to obtain say 1 1/2 barrels of oil equivalent of swam gas, or sheep fart energy, or even PV solar (fat chance).

    So now I have 1 1/2 barrels of oil equivalent energy, that I can use to make beer or whatever; and after I get my beer, I will have 1 1/2 barrels of oil equivalent in waste heat to warm the planet.
    Hang on there asec; I almost forgot, I already got one barrel’s worth of waste heat from the enterprise of gathering a barrel and a half of sheep farts.

    I could have just used 1 1/2 barrels of oil to make my beer, and not have 2 1/2 barrels of total waste heat.

    Did I already say, we get NO HEAT FROM THE SUN ?? We make it ALL right here on earth by wasting solar and other energies.

  45. I really could not care less that China is making solar panels more cheaply. No matter how cheap, solar panels are end user useful only. They are ancillary means of decreasing a home’s burden on the grid. They are not a source of useful centralized energy (city) or for industry.

    The Sun Sets and the WInd Dies. We lack a good way to store the energy and thus solar is fair weather at best.

    Solar is more expensive than wind and wind is 10 times more expensive than carbon or nuclear.

    YOU CANNOT BUILD A RELIABLE ENERGY SUPPLY FROM UNRELIABLE ENERGY SOURCES.

  46. Thank you thepompusgit and che.
    NOC’s are by far the largest oil producers in the world. Most people don’t know/understand that.
    It’s a sad day here and hopefully we can move those employees to other parts of the company.
    Thank you konrad, for your recommendation…..quality should win out over cheap crap but doesn’t any longer. If only people would wake up to the fact that you get what you pay for. :-(

  47. ChE said @ December 21, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    “There are other boutique uses as well, traffic signs too far to serve power to, telemetry systems, etc. If you see a solar panel at the side of the road someplace, it’s probably not driven by green fantasies, it’s driven by economics.”

    Boutique: “A small shop. spec. A small fashion-shop or department that sells ready-to-wear clothes designed by a couturier; a small shop selling ‘trend-setting’ clothes or other articles, esp. for young or fashionable people.” [from the OED]

    A rather odd word to associate with a 65 year-old outback sheep farmer; I can hardly wait to tell him he has a boutique on the roof of the machinery shed. Whoda thunkit? :-)

  48. ChE said @ December 21, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    “No, what that means is that the big players in the oil business are the state oil companies in the Middle East and Latin America.”

    And I reiterate what the Wiki-bloody-pedia says: “[BP] is the third-largest energy company and fourth-largest company in the world measured by revenues”.

    While oil is a very useful, compact energy source, it is far from being the only energy source. The fact that BP is the third largest energy company in the world does not automatically mean they are also the fourth largest oil company in the world. It’s part of the green mantra that ExxonMobil/BP/Shell are Big Oil and the large state-owned petrobusinesses are never mentioned.

  49. Over the past five years, ratepayers in jurisdictions with high uptakes of wind and solar PV have experienced below-average price increases for retail electricity. In fact, the five states with the largest capacities of wind and solar PV saw an average increase in cost/kWh that was not only significantly less than the U.S. average, but also less than the five states with the lowest adoption of solar PV and wind. As the graph illustrates, this statement is true whether cost increases are judged as growth rates or as real dollar figures.
    Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/14Wsy)

    http://cleantechnica.com/2011/12/20/5-states-with-most-solar-wind-energy-had-smallest-increase-in-electricity-prices-2005-2010/

    First Solar, an Arizona company, now has the cost of manufacture down to $0.72/Watt, and is looking at $0.52 in 2013.

    Warren Buffet bought two large Solar Farms *last week,* and now owns about 4 Gigawatts of Wind, and Solar, Combined.

  50. I guess “when BS talks, money walks”!

    I really no longer think we are even close to making renewables cost-effective yet, except for those who are off the grid. Nukes will win every time once fossils run out, anyway.

  51. Kum Dollison says:
    “First Solar, an Arizona company, now has the cost of manufacture down to $0.72/Watt, and is looking at $0.52 in 2013.”

    And their CEO left 3 months ago and the stock is headed southwards. You shouldn’t believe every press release by the solar industry, they have more spinmeisters than engineers.

  52. What we can see here is BP announcing a tactical withdrawal from a particular segment as it is currently unprofitable. However, like all of its competitors, it will continue to devote vast resources to ‘life after oil’, as, if it does not, it will go bankrupt. These efforts will encompass the full range of renewables, from solar and wind to tidal and geothermal energy. They will also include much energy (no pun intended) spent and very much money invested on the development of clean-burn coal technologies, and stuff like no-CO2 CHP.

    There are some who have posted above that think, or would like to think that this is the start of Big Oil walking away from renewables. Dream on, guys. Go ask them. They’ll tell you where the future is.

  53. George E. Smith; said @ December 21, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    “Its’ even much worse than that pompous.”

    Back in the 80s when The Git first began the self-sufficiency lifestyle, rather than making his beer from sheep farts, he used Human Ingenuity™. The cheapest ingredients were real barley malt (not malt extract) and real hops (locally grown). The problem with extracting malt from the grain is that the enzymes responsible for converting the starch to sugars only work within a fairly narrow range of temperatures. Most of the available literature had complicated thermostatically-controlled electrically-operated heaters for the wort. The Git made a giant “teapot cosy” from worn-out woolen jumpers and blankets to enclose the vessel holding the wort.

    He pitched his malt into water heated on the wood-burning cookstove at the upper range of temperature and left his thermally well-insulated wort to work overnight. By morning, all the starch was converted to lovely fermentable sugars. At the time he performed a time and motion study of his beer making and concluded that he was “earning” $AU20/hr. That autumn, he was paid $AU5/hr for picking apples.

    He never even gave a passing thought to all that naughty PlantFood/GHG/ToxicPollutant [delete whichever is inapplicable] he was making :-)

    BTW Good luck obtaining energy from sheep farts. Vegetable matter makes far more methane than animal manure. I have considered and researched methane gas production, but firewood’s a lot easier.

  54. “BarryW says:
    December 21, 2011 at 10:48 am

    Their going to play this as just “Big Oil” doing something nefarious and immoral to support their oil prices.”

    Surely BP are opening up competitive opportunities to those far more creative and imaginative who will dazzle us with their generation of copious amounts of cheap, solar energy. Just what we need here in the UK this winter with wind farms catching fire we need lots and lots and lots and lots of solar to keep us warm and safe from the icy blast.

  55. Wendy said @ December 21, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    “Thank you thepompusgit and che.
    NOC’s are by far the largest oil producers in the world. Most people don’t know/understand that.
    It’s a sad day here and hopefully we can move those employees to other parts of the company.
    Thank you konrad, for your recommendation…..quality should win out over cheap crap but doesn’t any longer. If only people would wake up to the fact that you get what you pay for. :-(”

    I must admit to being surprised when I made the discovery a few months ago. Another nail in the coffin of Green credibility.

    In my 60 years on this bewildering planet, I found that when circumstances seemed most dire that there was a new and exciting opportunity I likely wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.

    Some of us avoid cheap crap on the grounds that it’s never cheap; it almost always turns out to cost more in the medium and long term.

  56. Dr. Dave says:
    December 21, 2011 at 12:34 pm
    pat says:
    December 21, 2011 at 10:31 am
    “As a former owner of a solar company, I understand this completely. only one solar application makes sense: heating water. The idea that solar panels can do anything other than serve as a boutique power source is simply boneheaded.”
    ======================================
    “pat, I agree with your assessment of “boutique” power sources. My house was built in 1977 (the Carter era) when electricity was supposed to remain incredibly cheap. Alas, it is an all-electric home with ceiling electric radiant heat. It also had a roof mounted solar assist water heating system. This system thermostatically controlled the flow of propylene glycol through the roof mounted solar collectors to a heat exchange unit mounted next to the electric water heater. The other half of the system ran potable water through the heat exchanger to the water heater. I spent a fortune on plumbers keeping this damn system working. ”
    ============================================================
    It does not have to be that way. In 1940 I lived in a house in Miami, FL, USA, that had solar water heating. The hot water tank was on the roof peak disguised as a chimney. The solar heating coils were below the tank. It had a natural circulation system. The hot water leaving the coils, being less dense than the colder water flowing into the coils, naturally flowed up into the tank.
    No propylene glycol, no pumps, just hot water, even in the morning (at 26 degrees North latitude).

  57. “Actually the big problem is that the WEST cannot compete with the solar products coming out of China… Nothing else. If China sells panels for 1/2 your cost well your company is hosed.
    I thought you guys were all for freemarkets driving the economy.”

    China is very good with basic manufacturing. I was present during the entire time that the American computer industry was hollowed out and shipped to Taiwan, and then again a decade later shipped from Taiwan to China. Despite that, both Taiwan and the US fared quite well by moving “upstream.” Outsourcing the dirtiest, most labor intensive part of your operations makes sense. Solyndra would be in business today if they had put their mfg in China to begin with, but then they would never have attracted all that tempting government money.

    Free markets work. Always have, always will. It’s crony capitalism that doesn’t work because it interferes with the free market.

  58. What happens when all of the cracked and old solar panels need to be taken out? Who and how will the toxics be dealt with? Will we by then have extremely strict rules & regs which turn solar panels into the equivalent of asbestos?

    Toxins like: silicon tetrachloride, cadmium, selenium and sulfur hexafluoride

    http://cleantechnica.com/2009/01/14/danger-solar-panels-can-be-hazardous-to-your-health/

    California charges an up front fee when people buy computer monitors, in order to pay for the future recycling of said monitor. If we added these fees onto solar panels just how much LESS cost effective would they be?

  59. Photovoltaic efficiency is crap and has always been crap.
    I think lab efficiencies are only about 20% at best.
    When they reach 50% or better it might be quasi viable. Until then it is a giant sucking sound.
    Direct gain systems such as passive and DHW are much better but real efficiencies are only realized when the building is designed that way to begin with. Bolt on contraptions don’t really work too well.
    WRT BP, the subsidies must be drying up.

  60. rwct says:
    December 21, 2011 at 12:16 pm
    “[...] Look for Gore to threaten to sit on the Board of Directors,including the CEO. I mean that literally!”

    Ugh! Pardon me while I try to scrape my eyeballs out with a piece of broken glass (unless you have a better way to erase that imagery).

  61. ew-3 says: December 21, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Large companies like BP have lots of ways of knowing what is going on in Washington DC before the rest of us.
    My guess is that they know the end of subsidies is coming and they want out.

    That would be my conclusion also. I would also add, that the economic crisis in Europe and other world locations will see more subsidies slashed.

  62. Harvey says:
    December 21, 2011 at 10:57 am
    Actually the big problem is that the WEST cannot compete with the solar products coming out of China… Nothing else. If China sells panels for 1/2 your cost well your company is hosed.
    I thought you guys were all for freemarkets driving the economy.

    This is nothing to do with competition. China universally produces inexpensive goods. The only trouble is, that they are not inexpensive. They are cheap. And people like a perceived deal, so the unload their wallets in droves, but the shoddy products stop working. No warranty to be found. But too late, the economic engine has started, and the funds have been transferred. The Chinese model is just as subsidized as the Western variety. So, your snipe has no grounds, Harvey. No free market anywhere to be seen.

  63. In addition, I suspect something like ‘ThoricEnergy Plc, wholly owned subsidiary of British Petroleum’ is already sprouting its wings. Can you not feel the wind?
    ‘Big oil’ is not stupid.
    Environmentalists clearly are.

  64. Steve in SC says:
    December 21, 2011 at 4:58 pm
    Photovoltaic efficiency is crap and has always been crap.
    I think lab efficiencies are only about 20% at best.

    Steve, good point, I agree, but you left out the 0.50 correction for the sun not shining at night and the 0.40 correction for the inverse of average cloud cover. So if you are looking at solar panel efficiency at the ‘average’ location around the world, I always view it as 0.20 x 0.50 x 0.40 or about 4% efficiency when compared to other power sources worldwide, any location. Yes, there are some specific desert locations where this efficiency is boosted a bit, but not much.

    I was reading deeper on these thorium reactors. Since speaking of efficiency, I never stopped to realized that since they operate at ambient pressure and at 1000°C instead of about 400°C, their efficiency at generating electricity is, by Carnot cycle, about 50+% instead of 33% for coal, gas-fired or current nuclear plants. So the fuel is producing an extra 50% of free energy just because of this increased operating temperature. And that high temperature can be used to manufacture liquid fuels.

    I also never realized that in a worst case scenario, like a cracked containment vessel, all fuel would immediately turn to a solid glass-like puddle below and would be air cooled, no rods and no water necessary, a self-shutdown hands-off system in all cases. Those two factors put a liquid fluorine salt thorium reactor at the top of my list of future energy sources. And being able to slow-burn our current nuclear waste to boot… there is no question left in my mind.

    Now, the people of the world need to be calmly and properly educated on nuclear energy, it can be safe and is our god’s gift to us humans if you want to view it that way.

  65. Mike Bromley the Kurd says:
    December 21, 2011 at 6:27 pm
    Harvey says:
    December 21, 2011 at 10:57 am
    Actually the big problem is that the WEST cannot compete with the solar products coming out of China… Nothing else. If China sells panels for 1/2 your cost well your company is hosed.
    I thought you guys were all for freemarkets driving the economy.

    This is nothing to do with competition. China universally produces inexpensive goods. The only trouble is, that they are not inexpensive. They are cheap. And people like a perceived deal, so the unload their wallets in droves, but the shoddy products stop working. No warranty to be found. But too late, the economic engine has started, and the funds have been transferred. The Chinese model is just as subsidized as the Western variety. So, your snipe has no grounds, Harvey. No free market anywhere to be seen.
    —————————————————-
    It is more complicated than cheap Chinese panels. The cost of installation, maintenance, connections to a power grid – there are many other costs. But the solar industry should be booming right now with the introduction of cheap Chinese panels. After all the costs have gone way down. So why are all these companies going bankrupt? Because once the panels are made they can’t compete with conventional energy production – coal, oil, hydro. Without subsidies on the production and generation side they can’t make money. Subsidies are falling off on the production side. Soon the generation side will end. Bye bye solar. So long wind. Hello coal, nat gas, oil and one day again, nuclear.

  66. I suspect John Billings 2:54 sees the true picture. It is a tactical move. BP will keep looking at all alternatives. You can and should do that when you routinely deal with billions of dollars. They can re-enter the solar industry whenever they wish.

    Right now the prospects of profit are bleak. But now is not forever.

  67. Kozlowski says:
    December 21, 2011 at 3:44 pm
    [....]
    Free markets work. Always have, always will. It’s crony capitalism that doesn’t work because it interferes with the free market.

    The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is not a free market, and its manipulation of its currency and currency exchange rates to make other currencies and economies non-competitive with its captive labor and markets is calculated to transfer manufacturing and the technologies associated with the manufacturing from the other nations to itself. China would still be very competitive in the PV products in a freemarket due to its access to the necessary raw materials, but the radical disparity in the costs of the finished goods would be far closer than at present.

  68. Mike Bromley the Kurd says:
    December 21, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    “This is nothing to do with competition. China universally produces inexpensive goods. The only trouble is, that they are not inexpensive. They are cheap. And people like a perceived deal, so the unload their wallets in droves, but the shoddy products stop working. No warranty to be found. But too late, the economic engine has started, and the funds have been transferred. The Chinese model is just as subsidized as the Western variety. So, your snipe has no grounds, Harvey. No free market anywhere to be seen.”

    Actually Mike, China produces excellent goods. Pick up just about any laptop or computer associated peripheral that you use everyday without a second thought and you will find it was made there. The problem with the crap goods lays with the people importing them into whatever country you live in that has no local rep in China ensuring quality control. I has a good few years in ship building in China installing locally built electrical panels etc and the only time we had any problem were with generators out of the USA! All because I did the Q.C. in China and ensured we got what we asked for. Apple? IBM? Microsoft? All there and even doing research there. Do not blame China because some people buy cheap!

    Back on topic, the U.K. have moans from owners of companies installing the crap panels as the Government is reducing pay in tariffs. Tough! You open a company installing the things with false claims of efficiency you better expect the scam to tumble at some point.

  69. “Will there eventually be a PV solar production process – ‘printable’ panels, for instance – that’ll render the Chinese investment in silicon PV moot?”

    Nanosolar has developed a process of using modified roll to roll printing presses. They layer a “self assembling” goop onto metal sheet. The goop diversifies into the layers needed to form semiconductor junctions. The entire backing sheet serves as one electrode.

  70. Why don’t we accept the truth that namely for sunny climates solar possesses potential but presently the technology is not yet there, such that all we do is fund research into new technology and upping the efficiency of solar panels by at least 50% so that they become a cost effective means of energy production without the need for subsidies.

    It is crazy to roll out on mass scale a technology which we know is not up to the job.

  71. thepompousgit says:
    December 21, 2011 at 10:53 am

    pat said @ December 21, 2011 at 10:31 am

    “As a former owner of a solar company, I understand this completely. only one solar application makes sense: heating water. The idea that solar panels can do anything other than serve as a boutique power source is simply boneheaded.”

    Almost completely agree. However, I’d hardly call PV a “boutique” power source where the electricity supply companies charge so much for connection to the grid that they make solar power more economic. A friend in NSW was quoted more than double the cost of his PV array for a grid connection. It’s not huge; he uses propane for space heating, cooking and hot water==========

    the very best way is the real old method a copper pipe coil loop whatever in a glass topped box bloody cheap to DIY and doesnt need to be on the roof just a stand high enough to drain into your heaters tank. ok its low pressure but that has the boon of a lot less expensive valves replacing too..
    and your not paying a huge loan or having to deal with power cos and dodgy deals etc.

  72. And let’s not leave out the unspoken subsidy in China, the government cap on interest paid on deposits. It is set far below inflation, allowing subsidized lending rates for businesses far below what a true market rate would be.

  73. BP Solar covered the pump canopies of two of their freeway filling stations here in Johannesburg with solar panels – which supposedly would provide enough power, they claimed, to run the pumps and associated shop. Seemed like a good idea, if it worked, BUT it’s not common knowledge that they have never used them. They run on grid power, same as everyone else.

  74. The man with the golden gun figured out how to capture sunlight and get tons of energy out of it without resorting to fields and fields of panels. Maybe BP should seek him out and ask him to come on board as the leading expert in solar energy? It worked for the IPCC and Puke-arie (spelling is such a problem for me). He knew how to make a choo choo go and write smutty books, so was hired on as the climate expert. BP could learn a lesson from IPCC.

    But then…maybe they already have.

  75. KTWO says:
    December 21, 2011 at 8:34 pm
    I suspect John Billings 2:54 sees the true picture. It is a tactical move. BP will keep looking at all alternatives. You can and should do that when you routinely deal with billions of dollars. They can re-enter the solar industry whenever they wish.

    Right now the prospects of profit are bleak. But now is not forever.
    ——————————-
    Keep Dreamin’, my friend. I’ve been hearing about the soon to be ascendency of solar since the early 70′s. Maybe it’s just a loser?

    • No, it is not a loser but it can sure produce losses. The mistake is regarding it as a universal elixir suited to any energy shortage. Magic, Salvation. Yet that mistake is repeated. And repeated.

      Everywhere the alternative energies are so entwined with politics and subsidies that the technology itself means little. The goals are to (appear to) create jobs and enrich your political friends and yourself. The sales tools are promises to win the future and pleas to save Gaia.

      It is the same with wind power. And subsidized bio-fuels. And electric cars which government agencies buy when more useful vehicles are available at less cost. And installing thousands of recharging stations that may never be used

      Government will build useless 1000 foot high dams in Kansas if there is an advantage to politicians. They build bridges to nowhere. Yet we do not denounce dams or bridges. Solar power generation can produce benefits, but only finite benefits not infinite ones. And not yet. And probably never in some places.

  76. “”””” Galane says:

    December 22, 2011 at 2:28 am

    “Will there eventually be a PV solar production process – ‘printable’ panels, for instance – that’ll render the Chinese investment in silicon PV moot?”

    Nanosolar has developed a process of using modified roll to roll printing presses. They layer a “self assembling” goop onto metal sheet. The goop diversifies into the layers needed to form semiconductor junctions. The entire backing sheet serves as one electrode. “””””

    Well Galane, I can spray a self assembling goop out of my garden hose, onto metal sheet (note to self; look up Periodic Table listing for “metal”). And as dirty as our tap water is, I’m sure it will diversify into semi-conducting layers.
    I’d like to compare my el cheapo solar cells with yours. Just how many stacked junctions does your nano-solar diversify into, and how many different bandgaps are stacked; and just in case you know, what is the average and best solar to electric conversion efficiency, let’s say for any of one, one and a half, and two air mass values. Also how many suns can the material tolerate in concentrator systems ??
    I suspect that quantum dots are useable as solar collectors; but good luck on the long term stability.

  77. “”””” Steve in SC says:

    December 21, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Photovoltaic efficiency is crap and has always been crap.
    I think lab efficiencies are only about 20% at best.
    When they reach 50% or better it might be quasi viable. Until then it is a giant sucking sound. “””””

    Well Steve, it’s not quite that bleak.
    Silicon has a theoretical maximum solar conversion efficiency (for air-mass 1.5 I believe) of around 25 %; and Sunpower syatems is getting about 23%. They are one of the silicon groups that know what they are doing. Unfortunately, silicon is an indirect band gap semiconductor, which limits its potential.
    For thin film Gallium Arsenide, Alta Devices, is getting around 28.3% conversion, and that stuff will operate at hundreds of suns (concentration) so cell material cost is not limiting.
    The current record for a triple band gap triple junction cell is 43.5% CE
    First Solar employs Polycrystaline Cadmium Telluride and get about 11% conversion efficiency. in production.Hard to find two materials more obnoxious than Tellurium and Cadmium.
    The yuppy goop (not to be confused with yippee) is CIGS; Copper Indium Gallium Selenide, and some claim around 13% for production poly cells. 19% is the lab best for CIGS, which was the miracle of Solyndra material of choice. Solyndra just didn’t know beans about PV solar collection; or they would have known that a cylindrical cell was fatal.(unless you use massive non-imaging optics, and that has a problem in achieving anything close to uniform area irradiance).
    Rather than wasting good Indium and Gallium on CIGS, which hates water, it would be put to better use as an InGaN/GaN hetero-junction wide band cap for a multijunction multi-bandgap stack. Current thinking is that >60% direct solar to electric conversion is doable with a triple stack.

    That and multi-sun non-imaging optical concentrators, can make niche application PV solar interesting. Nothing else besides conversion efficiency (and survival lifetimes) is of any consequence to PV solar energy, until we can put up a giant lens and focus the sun onto a smaller area of the earth. Don’t forget the state and local real property taxes on improved property values, with solar farms built on them; don’t think you will get that for free. And wait till people start charging roof rental fees to those Solar City folks who want to sell you your own solar energy for less than PG&E charges you for juice.

  78. I’ve been following solar panels prices and technology for over two years now and prices certainly have tumbled from where they were when I began watching the industry. As I recall, back then $6 per watt was roughly the price. Now it’s as low as $1.50. If you install your own panels, which, with the advent of microinverters is child’s play, you are almost crazy not to install solar panels, what with the $1000 per kilowatt Fed tax credit (up to 6 kilowatts). Twenty years of use (the panels will
    last a lot longer than that – they are warranteed for 35 years) calculates to electricity for roughly
    4.5 to 6.0 cents per kilowatt hour, depending. It’s crazy not to install solar panels.

  79. If the outlook for solar is so bleak, why is Warren Buffett spending $3 Billion on projects in California and Arizona?

  80. DMarshall,

    I not only read the article, I posted it three times: once in the Climate Craziness of the Week thread @2011/12/23, and once in the BP Quits Solar Power thread, @2011/12/23. And of course, I posted the article in this thread, too. Since it was published on back Dec. 21st you probabbly didn’t go back and find it in the San Diego news archives, you found it in my posts.

    If taxpayer subsidies are not supplied, solar power is simply not viable. Neither is wind power, or any other alternative energy source. The free market would see to that. And blaming poor management and questionable decision making is the wrong explanation – unless you believe in a giant coincidence: that bad management only happens when alternative energy schemes are tried.

    Face it, alternative energy would not exist if it were not for the outrageous taxpayer subsidies wasted on them.

    • @Smokey On a level playing field, solar is doing better and better. And it’s difficult to say if the “free” market was every truly free.
      I’ve said before and I’ll stand by it again – dump all the subsidies for ALL energy sources, let the exploration, mining, extraction, manufacturing companies foot their own bills (incl. fighting their own wars) and let’s see just how the energy sources stack up.
      And no sweetheart political deals for anyone – if someone wants to plant, mine or build something, they have to come to an agreement with the locals, not the mayor / governor in their pocket

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