Another US solar business in trouble?

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

SunEdison, whose share price has plunged by around 75% in the last few months, is rumoured to be on the verge of laying off a significant number of staff.

According to Greentech Media;

With its stock price taking a hit, SunEdison is planning a deep cut to its workforce, according to a memo obtained by GTM.

Investor confidence had been wavering for some time. Many were having a hard time understanding SunEdison’s acquisition spree — specifically, the $2.2 billion purchase of the residential installation company Vivint Solar in July.

Executives called the Vivint acquisition a big step toward creating the first renewable energy supermajor. The street wasn’t fully convinced of the plan.

With its stock still under pressure, SunEdison is now culling its workforce. According to a company-wide memo from CEO Ahmad Chatila released on September 30, SunEdison will be laying off around 10 percent of its 7,300 employees. Many employees received notices on Friday.

“Overall, the proposed changes result in an overall reduction of about 30%, 20% being from non-labor expenses and about 10% from headcount reduction. And this process will take some time to complete. Most of the changes will be announced during the fourth quarter with some final steps expected in the first quarter of 2016,” reads the memo.

Read more: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Layoffs-at-SunEdison-as-Investors-Question-the-Developer

According to Yahoo Finance, over the last 52 weeks Sun Edison’s share price has crashed from a mid July high of $33.45, to a low of $6.56, recovering slightly to the current price of $8.33.

Sun Edison may have been hit hard by the recent global trend of governments scaling back subsidies for renewables. They have spoken out on several occasions against cutbacks to government subsidies for solar energy.

Sun Edison share price is obviously quite volatile, so it is impossible to say at this point whether the current fall represents a blip, or something more serious. For example, a strong renewable commitment from Paris COP 21, or renewed government interest in supporting solar energy, might lead to a recovery in Sun Edison share price.

Has Sun Edison has received federal loan guarantees from the US government? I couldn’t find any definitive information about this – but given Obama’s recent pledge to dramatically increase federal assistance for renewable energy, such guarantees are a possibility.

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110 thoughts on “Another US solar business in trouble?

  1. As Mr. Crammer might say, “bye, bye, bye” My apologies for the pun. the previously strong market for solar stocks was entirely due to easy money (credit) and government incentives to early adopters. Its time has not yet come,although a big bump may come this November as the hype builds around the Paris confab.

    • Solar power is by definition not a good source of energy for industry or the grid. It is only useful to an end-user, such as on the roof of a residence, that will decrease the homeowner’s use of energy from the grid. And my watch is solar powered (Seiko); that works just fine.

      As large solar panel farms/installations use a lot of rare and nonrecyclable materials and there is more maintenance involved than any are willing to admit, photovoltaics are really a waste for this purpose. Solar energy by concentration and heating (liquid sodium) also requires a lot of water, which is not all that abundant in regions where there is a lot of sun, often sucking up water needed badly for irrigation farming the area. Again, not all that practical.

      Wind and solar are the top two most expensive, by far, energy sources on the planet and they are far from being green in any way. The footprint and infrastructure demanded is huge and incredibly eco-unfriendly. No honest person would think that wind and solar are the savior energies that we are told they are.

      • What are some of the rare and non-recyclable materials used in solar farm panel installation?

        I can think of silicon, oxygen, aluminum, all as common as dirt; maybe even the least rare solid materials (yes oxygen as oxides) on earth. Well yu do need glass protective covers, basically silicon dioxide, and that is common as dirt too, but is energy intensive. Well you could use solar heating to make glass. Support structures could use a lot of iron and carbon, in the form of steel. Iron seems about as recyclable as you can get; literally recycles in front of your eyes to components of iron ores.

        Don’t quite understand why thermal solar would require a lot of water (usage). Most steam plants recycle the spent steam back through condensers.

        I’m with you on the wasteful use of land, which can hardly be used for farming that requires irrigation. That would imply plant growth, and you can’t grow much in the dark under the solar collector blanket.

        There are a lot of negatives related to Solar renewable energy, but I don’t think materials rarity is one of them.

        The very low areal power density, of solar radiation would seem tome to be a big enough problem just by itself.

        Even 20% of 1,000 W/m^2, times geometry fractions is very low power density.

        But people would complain if it was any higher; isn’t that the problem; too much heat ??

        g

      • It takes a lot of water to keep the solar panels clean. Plenty of dust in desert areas.

        Better off to grow food with this wasted water!

      • George E Smith. The list you are looking for is here:

        http://www.miningfacts.org/Blog/Mining-News/Mining-needed-to-meet-mineral-needs-of-renewable-energy/

        New solar panels require arsenic, bauxite, boron, cadmium, coal, copper, gallium, indium, iron ore, molybdenum, lead, phosphate, selenium, silica, tellurium, and titanium dioxide – See more at: http://www.miningfacts.org/Blog/Mining-News/Mining-needed-to-meet-mineral-needs-of-renewable-energy/#sthash.c9o3OdzQ.dpuf

      • Well I hope you have a more knowledgeable source than that one you cite; Mining facts.

        I’m not going to quibble about their ” mining facts “.

        But their knowledge of the use to which the stuff they dig out of the ground is put in PV solar panels; ( we were talking about solar panels, and NOT wind turbines) is totally miserable.

        Take ” phosphate ” for example. Well maybe that is their ” ore “. Probably bird shit used to get phosphorous. (P) Well phosphorous is used in lawn fertilizer and other agricultural plant foods, and it is used by the rail car load.

        Well yes; phosphorous is also used in silicon semiconductor devices, maybe even Silicon Photodiodes, AKA solar cells.

        Well yes, Phosphorous is a standard n-type dopant in simple silicon diodes, and maybe in solar cells. Well how much do they use, given that agriculture use it by the ton.

        Well silicon single crystal, has about 5 E +22 silicon atoms per cc. And if you use phosphorous as the n-type dopant, in the silicon n epi layer, you use it at an average doping level of maybe 1 E +14 or 1 E +15 atoms per cc which is between 10 ppb and 100 ppb.

        Yes I do think PV solar panels are going to deplete phosphorous ores (phosphate). Got any idea how much land area is used for agriculture that might get the occasional phosphorous fertilizer do over. ??

        Same goes for Boron. Well Boron is a very common p type dopant in ordinary silicon diodes, so it could be used maybe at 1 E +16 to 1 E +18 atoms per cc so from about 1 ppm to 100 ppm of boron in the anode layer. Well the p layer in a diode, is only going to be a few microns at the most in thickness, where as the substrate could be 500 microns thick. So once again the use of boron in PV panels is pitifully small.
        On the other hand Boron which comes from Borax among other things is a very common component of glass.

        Pyrex is a well known type of Borosilicate glass, a mixture of SiO2 and B2O3.

        The cheapest commonest optical ” battleship plate ” glass is a borosilicate glass, look for BK-7 or N-BK-7 in your Schott catalog.

        Borax is consumed by the rail car load in soap powders and detergents; remember the 20 mule team borax advertisements.

        Well if you want, I can go through your whizz bang source list one at a time. Rare earths are not used in PV solar panels. Maybe magnets for wind turbines, but PV solar panels are not wind turbines.

        Forget it; solar panel materials are dirt cheap and the earth’s crust has all of them in just about the right proportions for turning the whole of the earth’s crust into solar panels.

        All these do-gooder web sites that know how to spell Gadolinium, should learn something about these technologies before spouting off about the supply of raw materials.

        Fusion energy might be doable with a DT reaction, for which mining.com has no information about tritium mines on earth; or even hydrogen mines for that matter.

        Learning a few buzz words, will not solve any renewable energy major problems any time soon.

        g

      • What do you mean “are still used” ??

        Gallium would of course be used in Gallium Arsenide solar cells. So far as I know, there is not one single gallium arsenide solar panel available for home installation anywhere on this planet, and never has been. GaAs junctions are used in some hi tech multiple junction cells that are only used for space applications.

        And Indium would typically appear only in Indium Gallium Nitride junctions that also would only exist on expensive multi-band-gap multi-junction solar cells for space applications.

        Gallium isn’t even remotely rare; it is a by product of the Aluminum industry, and the amount of it available is limited only by how much people want to buy.

        I believe that Indium is also an aluminum by product, and not much of a factor in commercial home solar panels.

        Indium is quite commonly used in Indium Tin Oxide as a transparent conductive layer on things like LCD displays. It is conductive but barely so, which is fine for CCDs which draw very little current, but worthless as a conductive layer for solar cells from which one is trying to draw significant currents. So I doubt you will find much of either gallium or Indium in any competitive commercial home installable solar PV panel.

        g

      • ‘GaAs junctions are used in some hi tech multiple junction cells that are only used for space applications.’
        Gallium is used in digital X Ray plates.

      • thought nanoflex was selling home based panels and they use GaAs.
        iirc they are only ones using it for that while others like altadevices using it for smaller stuff like wearables.

        for some reason thought gallium was listed as rare earth element but not sure now.

        was also thinking more about CIGS ( Copper-Indium-Gallium-Selenide ) which failed companies like Solyndra and Nanosolar used and MiaSolé seems to still be using.
        Selenide and Indium are considered rare in natural form.

      • For some reason I can’t reply to George. George, you obviously have not made the effort to research the material needs of a solar farm or wind farm. Besides using an incredible amount of land both use rare earth metals, 97% of which come from China, to make the panels and magnets used in the construction of both farms. Rare earth mining in China is an environmental mess. The Chinese mine rare earths using sulfuric acid which they spray, under pressure, on to the ore body which is a clay deposit. The mine waste is not recycled but instead is discharged directly to the environment. In addition to being resource intensive, solar and wind are ugly to look at and kill an incredible amount of birds and bats. So many that the government has to make special allowance for the birds killed, most of which are protected under various federal and state laws. Wind turbines use Neodymium magnets, mostly produced in China, and large amount of Aluminum which is mined and then needs to be smelted in high temperature furnaces (powered by fossil fuels). Silica needs extremely high temperatures to be melted to make glass, which also comes from fossil fuels because the power is always on and you don’t want a furnace shutting down in the middle of melting silica.

      • Ugly to look at? You enjoy looking at a coal plant instead? Weird criteria for energy supply – fracking fields and donkey pumps aren’t pretty, either – nor are refineries.

        But the rare-earth situation is changing – China scared the rest of the world a few years ago and now steps are being taken. Siemens is one wind-turbine vendor moving away from use of dysprosium, and also from sourcing from China. See attached form MolyCorp about use of the rare-earth mine in California.

        http://www.molycorp.com/molycorp-chosen-to-supply-rare-earths-for-use-in-high-efficiency-siemens-wind-turbine-generators/

        and http://www.electronicsweekly.com/news/design/power/siemens-eases-rare-earth-supply-wind-turbines-2014-05/

        Regarding land area, it’s easier to graze cattle or raise crops on land when you’re leasing to wind farmers than to dense fracking fields – and you don’t have to worry about spills. Construction might crack drainage tiles, but that’s the same as for fracking.

        And lots of solar can be placed on rooftops – lots of rooftops in the US, and they happen to be very close to power consumers. Larger solar installations can also be sited on brownfield locations to get use out of land too polluted for other use without expensive cleanup. New solar PV technologies are also looking at detoxifying the panel chemistries.

        But toxic? We get more radiation released from coal burning than from nuclear plants. And look at the coal ash spills in recent years.

        As for birds and bats, siting is important for wind farms. Don’t build any more in known flyways. They’re also getting better at reducing impact by, for example, starting the blades at slightly higher wind speeds. Significant reductions in mortality have been seen and reductions in power have been 1% or so.

        We have lots of land in the US with tremendous wind potential so we can pick and choose a bit.

        Face it, all energy beyond our own arms and legs has drawbacks that need to be managed.

      • “””””…..
        john

        October 6, 2015 at 9:07 am

        For some reason I can’t reply to George. George, you obviously have not made the effort to research the material needs of a solar farm or wind farm. …..”””””

        Very simple reason John. You don’t know diddley squat about semi-conductor technology if you think solar cells use rare earths; and Indium is NOT a rare earth.

        So yes Solyndra used CIGS solar cell technology. Copper Indium Gallium Selenide. It’s claim to fame is that it is used in a very thin film grown on glass, so the actual quantities of materials are small compared to silicon based cells.

        Copper Selenide is a II-VI compound similar to CdSe . ALL II-VI semiconductor compounds are very hygroscopic, so they need to be hermetically sealed, so Solyndra’s tubular CIGS film was deposited on a tube of glass, which then had to be sealed inside a second tube of glass. That gave them a requirement of 2 pi times as much glass required as is needed for a cover window on a silicon solar panel. The CIGS material could be quite cheap, which is good because it also has very poor solar conversion efficiency.

        Yes you can make solar cells out of GaAs. Unfortunately it has a somewhat larger band gap than silicon, so it is only efficient in the near infra-red part of the solar spectrum. It also can be used for IR emitting diodes, but once again that isn’t visible, so you can’t see them. IR diodes emit at around 900 nm for dirt cheap zinc diffused diodes, or 940 nm for amphoterically silicon doped liquid epi diodes. The liquid epi diodes are more efficient, because the bulk Ga As is quite transparent to the 940 nm radiation, so internal absorption losses are low. But 940 nm photons are lower energy than 900 nm.

        Oh by the way John, I built my first Ga As IR emitting diodes for a small computer company (customer) called IBM.

        That was in 1966; so yes if you were in the LED business, or any other part of the semi-conductor industry before then, you probably know more about it than I do. And circa 1972 I was heavily involved in visible LEDs and other semiconductor (silicon based) products; and we had in our plant enough 6 nines purity arsenic to poison every living thing on earth, and a comparable amount of Gallium which we recycled ourselves to make 7 nines purity (99.99999%) raw Gallium. (LED company in Si. valley)

        I believe I first used a silicon diode for any purpose, in 1958; it was actually manufactured by Phillips in Holland. But I got my principal training in semi-conductor Physics from Dr Andrew Grove, at Fairchild Semiconductor in 1967. You may remember him as a one time President of Intel.

        If you are going to accuse me of not doing my research John, you ought know what you are talking about.

        g

      • Down there for CCDs substitute LCDs.

        The transparent contact layer on LCD displays, is one of the biggest users of Indium, as Indium tin oxide. No use whatsoever for solar panels which are high current devices.

        g

      • GaAs has a band gap of 1.4 ev versus 1.1 ev for silicon. And it is a direct ga material whereas silicon is an indirect gap material, so silicon has different absorption properties from GaAs.

        Some very thin Ga As solar cells have been made; so thing they are flexible and can be curled up (stupid thing to do. ) but it is expensive so is preferably used in concentrator solar cells where it’s higher Temperature tolerance allows it to be used with irradiances of maybe up to 100 suns. So you use small cells plus non imaging concentrator optics to gather the solar energy, so 3-d steerable arrays are a way to go.

        So there’s a solar symposium in SF on the 16th October. If you are attending, we might bang into each other.

        It’s sponsored by UC Merced and DOE. I get invited every year for some reason.

  2. This is what will happen to all worldwide stock markets, if the disastrous renewable energy policies are followed. Modern economies depend upon computers and electricity which is stable in both demand and cost, neither of which occurs with wind or solar.

  3. SunEdison is another of the high flying promoter companies in the solar space that would not exist without bad public policy to keep them going. The top two solar firms in the U.S. are not directly impacted by these fraudsters, but also not helped as in a level playing field of competitiveness. As seen with Solyndra, taxpayers are the losers and policy promoters are the facilitators and excuse writers. In the aftermath of such financial flops, the Administration will then turn to the few competitive leaders to cite grant and loan program averages that include these tech leaders. At least we know the drill now.

  4. Price per share is a speculative value, and bears little relationship to a company’s fundamentals. Right now the stock appears to be oversold, suffering from some skittishness over its acquisitions. Thanks for the tip, I’ll be a buyer of this ticker now. I hate the business this company is in, but it looks like a pretty good bottom play right now. In the world of equity trading, even dead cats bounce!

    • Michael Gersh says:

      Price per share is a speculative value, and bears little relationship to a company’s fundamentals. Right now the stock appears to be oversold, suffering from some skittishness over its acquisitions. Thanks for the tip, I’ll be a buyer of this ticker now. I hate the business this company is in, but it looks like a pretty good bottom play right now. In the world of equity trading, even dead cats bounce!

      Agreed. It’s currently trading at $9.22 picking up since this post was written.

      If you look at the 5y to date graph, they had been steadily rising since a low in May 2012 of $1.72.

      If I was trading, i’d go for it.

    • But look at the fundamentals, they aren’t very appealing, and the Vinvint deal was odd. I believe there are only two reasons for an acquisition, first is that they have unique capabilities that enhance the core business, or second they provide access to customers, (a marketplace footprint). Vinvint did neither in any compelling way.

      It’s not always true that a dead cat will bounce. There are times when they are so rotten that they just splatter.

    • Michael Gersh –The old adage that says — drop a cat and it will land on its feet doesn’t apply to dead cats. — Eugene WR Gallun

      • The London stock market adage is that even a dead cat will bounce.
        The cat being a completely bankrupt company.
        So beware the temporary gains.

      • I strongly suspect that most of the bounce comes from people who are convinced that even dead cats will bounce.

    • Just remember that if there isn’t really any business, then for every market winner, there is a market loser.

      The markets only make money if there is a real value growing business involved.

      Otherwise you are just robbing your neighbor; maybe with his co-operation, born of ignorance.

      g

      • Not really. If a stock rises, all traders make money. If you think the guy who sells (for a profit) and the stock continues to rise has lost something, your mathematical sensibility is too immature for you to be a stock trader. A mature trader always hopes that a stock continues to rise after a sell. If it doesn’t he’s cutting it too close – nobody can consistently call tops.

        Now, a company that fails will produce losers and bag holders, but for every one of those losers there might well have been many winners, and even the losers should have hedged on the way up. An apparent loser might be a winner after all, but that can be hard to see. For instance, on this stock right here I got in a couple of days ago (Thanks Anthony!) and have already been in and out a couple of times. Still in it, so I can’t say I made any money yet, but the shares I hold now have a cost basis a little under 6, even though I never bought under 8.4. Buy the dips and take profits when you can – capitalism is a beautiful thing!

  5. Until electricity reaches roughly 80 to 90 cents per kWh solar cannot be cost effective without government and ratepayer subsidies. And no one is addressing the huge amount of surface area required to produce material amounts of baseload power nor the storage of it. Furthermore given this huge surface area and the amount of PV panels needed to produce it, one must consider the life expectancy of both the panels and the storage devices. A nuclear or coal fired generating plant is designed for a minimum life expectancy of 60 years. It takes approximately 29 billion of one square meter of PV surface to produce today’s baseload power in the US, to be available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. If panels were produced at 10 per second it would take over 90 years to fabricate and install them. Yet their life expectancy is 25 years at best and large scale lithium ion batteries may last ten years. Thus to produce baseload power would become an all-consuming activity for man for centuries to come. For the calculations and background leading to the 29 billion square meter figure please see: http://fusion4freedom.us/going-solar/

    • When you say no-one is addressing the huge amounts of surface area, I presume you are just talking about yourself.

      Everybody I know involved in any way with solar energy problems, is acutely aware of the huge are needs.

      And some very knowledgeable people are constantly addressing that in various ways.

      Tonopah, and Ivanpah are perfect examples of how not to address the area issue.

      In some locations, non-imaging optics can be substituted for silicon or silicon alternatives.

      A problem with Tonopah like installations, is they are of necessity remote from human habitation, so electric power transmission become part of the cost.

      PV solar works best where the real estate is already committed for inhabited areas.

      But it is still too expensive, yet the present costs are only achieved with foreign dumping price products, that make domestic products uncompetitive.

      So it is really still a technology problem; figuring out how to make large areas of efficient materials at much lower legacy energy costs. Good luck on that.

      g

      • As for tracking arrays, either one or two directional tracking, it is certainly true that one can retain peak generating power by a steerable array than by a fixed panel.

        That does not mean the same holds for a large area farm. Two directional tracking, which always points the array in the direction normal to the sun vector, results in the largest shadow footprint for each steerable element, and the steerable elements then need to be more widely spaced, to prevent shadowing, and that reduces the average power density obtainable.

        In no case can you exceed the total energy collected by a locally horizontal flat panel covering all of the available land surface area; by using any sort of tracking array.

        Since protective glass covers are almost mandatory, those can be selective coated to reject (reflect) nonconvertible solar spectrum components, to prevent excessive heating.

        Yes that is expensive, but that is a part of the technology vacuum, that would need to be addressed.

        g

        PS If you want to push fusion, why not do that, instead of knocking solar.
        I don’t have any axes to grind on any of these technologies, so I don’t care which ones end up ruling the roost. But the way to succeed in your favorite technology, is to make that technology viable; not to knock others, which already may be working to some extent.

      • No I am not the 2009 Nobel Physics Prize winner who invented the CCD. He was at Bell Labs, when I was at a Si. Valley LED company I was a co-founder of. We had similar job titles in very different companies, but I have never met him.

        I do know some industry people who know both of us; including the inventor of the first visible LED. We helped commercialize his LED design. Unfortunately when the Nobel committee came to giving Nobels to LED pioneers, they forgot to give one to the guy that made the first practical visible LED and taught most of the people currently working in that field (Professor Nick Holonyak Jr at the U of Illinois, Champaign Urbana).

        Instead they gave it to the inventor of the first good blue LED and laser diode; Shoji Nakamura. Yes he deserved to get his prize, but they totally goofed in bypassing Holonyak, and gave it instead to some other people nobody knows about.

        g

    • “””””….. And no one is addressing the huge amount of surface area required to produce material amounts of baseload power nor the storage of it. …..”””””

      I assumed that you were the sole author of the above citation.

      ” No one ” would presumably include, not you either, and since I stated that I knew of a large number of persons, who are addressing that very issue, that would exclude them from your ” no-one “, which would leave at least you.

      If you don’t know anyone who is addressing the issue, why not say that. Why conclude that o-one is, just because you don’t happen to know anybody who is.

      Lack of evidence, is not evidence of lack.

  6. Solar Powered Robber Barons

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3259920/The-solar-panels-banned-ugly-Family-told-energy-source-single-complaint-neighbour-decision-brand-farcical.html

    “Although it is connected to the National Grid, the panels help the property to produce more electricity on average than it consumes”.

    So, the Feed In Tariff (FIT) means they are paid an outrageous sum of money for the surplus electricity that is transferred to the National Grid & other consumers pay (me included) more for their electricity, in order to fund the FIT. Iniquitous!

    • The UK is the best current example of special interests playing the public favor for solar with high priced variants that are out of line with competitive solar costs and greatly reduced FIT rates. Such a political advocacy scheme is aided by the fast moving pace of the solar industry and out of date public perceptions of the cost decline by the sector leaders.

  7. In the UK giving stock advice without an authorisation is illegal. As everyone know something and nobody knows much.

    So I’ll content myself with saying, “Think of the workers”.

    You may not like the business but this is still people;’s livelihoods on the line… and Christmas is coming.
    Be sympathetic.

    • I am sympathetic towards the workers.
      I’m also sympathetic towards the taxpayers who have been forced to fund these economically uncompetitive jobs for so many years.

    • @ MCourtney “You may not like the business but this is still people;’s livelihoods on the line… and Christmas is coming.
      Be sympathetic.”

      Be sympathetic….. I am sympathetic.
      I’m about to have a visit from a Solar panel rep who wants to get me to buy a fantastic new development in solar panels.
      According to the ‘senior technical development director’ who cold called me last week – “These new units are called ‘solar PV’ & are so efficient that as well a giving 100% output from dawn to dusk they will work in moonlight”. !!!!

      The sales consultant’s patter will be recorded & passed onto trading standards as a sting operation.

      I am only sympathetic to the 1,000s who are caught out by these lowlife scammers (who need jail time).

      • It’s an overcast day in the UK, in the last 9 hrs my 4kW top of the range solar PV system has produced just 3.17kWh of electric; my computers use more than that !!

      My subsidised solar PV system is great for producing cash (I get 49.6p/kWh) but useless for useful energy.

    • Its a bit of a stretch to call this “stock advice” – I didn’t include any buy or sell recommendations.

      As for the plight of the workers, someone I know is going to be made redundant from his job in the next few weeks. Part of the reason his employer’s business failed, is soaring energy prices made their business unprofitable. A significant part of the reason those energy prices soared is government policies forcing energy providers to buy hideously expensive renewable power from the likes of Sun Edison.

      People who got a job in with Sun Edison, in good faith, suffer just as much as anyone else when they lose their job. But there is a bigger picture – as numerous studies have shown, around 2 people in private industries lose their job, whenever a government funded renewable job is created.

      http://www.forbes.com/2011/04/11/green-jobs-fracking-opinions-jerry-taylor-peter-van-doren.html

  8. I recently listened to an editorial discussing and east coast college(s) that was divesting of fossil fuel investments. The piece went on to discuss that the students and others driving the investment change were hypocritical in their convenient decision as they use fossil fuels during most aspects of their daily lives. It went on to suggest that a better strategy would be to use the divested funds to support alternative energy startups and established alternative energy companies. That’s all well and good but they fail to realize that endowment managers are charged with prudent management of the endowment wealth and minimizing risk, neither of which fit the alternative energy space very well.

    • All those greenie college students, faculty, and administrators out to set a real example, they ought to be the first to cut the power in their buildings, and run their places off of solar, wind, and candlepower.

      Then they can experience first hand what they now happily and fervently demand of the rest of us.

      • My cousin in Colorado recently had a young man drive up to him as he was working his farm. He wanted my cousin to sign a petition against oil production, and especially fracking for natural gas. My cousin asked him what fuel the car used he was driving Then he asked him abut the tires and where they came from, then the lubricants, steering wheel, etc. down to the radio push buttons and the plastic used in his glasses. In several cases the young man said “no that’s not true” or “I didn’t know that” to which my cousin said “want to bet” or “now you know”.
        Finally the young man left, less enthusiasm for his petition showing, but probably not entirely convinced that he was doing the right thing in circulating that petition. Wish there were a few billion conversations just like that one.

  9. I really don’t get the political left’s personal hatred for what they call “Big Oil”? Imagine what life would be like if all petro products were to suddenly disappear overnight. Oil is literally in or in the supply chain of every product we buy and depend on for our survival. For some applications, there are substitutes, but for many applications, including transportation…mostly not. Over the last 100 years, we’ve seen productivity explode because of oil/gas and then add computing power to the mix…could it get any better? And somehow people are offended by this? People hated “Big Oil” before they were charged as the “ultimate polluter”, but why? The Standard Oil alleged monopoly?How does half the populace abandon any kind of logic and get to be so stubbornly wrong-headed about just “who” the enemy is? Yes, you are demonizing a product that you use daily and couldn’t live with out.

    And looking at historical levels of co2, wouldn’t the real reason to be worried be when the level of co2 dropped below 300ppm for any sustained period of time? Just sayin.

  10. In Sussex, UK there are fields that have some of the deepest fertile soils anywhere in the country and yet acres and acres are now under solar panels. How is it something that in the name of the environment we are utilising such prized farming assets – ridiculous – if these companies collapse because a bit of common sense about the future has come to light, I for one will not shed a single tear

  11. euanmearns

    Yes, its a good point that we don’t have a full year of data and there could be a residual effect. One week of data missing – 23 to 30 Sep. I doubt that could cause the pattern, but you never know, N hemisphere in sink mode at this time – not sure I understand that either.

    I think you misunderstood what I was pointing out. It’s not missing week, it’s the coverage. In nov-dec 2014 we see a large missing area at high N latitudes. This means that for several winter months each year there’s not data. That will produce a seasonal bias.

    From the vague ideas I’ve picked up about carbon cycle I would have expected forests to be eating CO2 in summer so the high CO2 is surprising, especially with a summer bias. But then I’m not an expert on evergreen pine.

    It does not fit the perceived wisdom anyway.

  12. Are the Chinese threatening to close Green Energy’s dumping grounds?

    Surely, it cannot be the press and academia revealing the true costs and benefits of so-called “green” technology.

  13. Wow that will hit right here in the land of Priuses and $4 toast. SunEd have a facility here in The Bay Area.

    • That’s what we’re afraid of outside the Bay Area. Any company pushed by the California delegation leads to 10x more loss to U.S. taxpayers from the phone call to the WH by that delegation to relax due diligence in their case. From there the instructions go out to DoE to look the other way and hold their nose. And the senior execs get to keep bonuses too.

  14. Individual companies have trouble, yet the industry continues to expand.

    Does Mr. Worrall intend to do a follow-up article about the catastrophic drop in coal stock prices, and the numerous bankruptcies in coal, oil, gas and drilling companies?

    Aug 3, 2015
    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/alpha-joins-the-lineup-of-coal-miners-in-bankruptcy/

    Back in August 2008, a share of Alpha Natural Resources sold for $104. On Monday, a share was worth under 4 cents.

    Alpha rivals Patriot Coal (PATQ), Walter Energy (WLTGQ) and James River Coal (JRCCQ), have also sought bankruptcy protection since the start of 2014.

    versus this recent report about solar PV.

    Utility-scale solar costs down by half in last five years alone
    “PV compares favorably to just the fuel costs of natural gas-fired generation.”

    by John Timmer – Oct 3, 2015 9:00am CDT

    Earlier this week, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs released a report on the state of utility-scale solar installations in the US. Just about everything in the report is remarkable for anyone who’s followed the solar market closely. Over the past five years, prices have dropped by half, while the capacity factors are approaching that of wind. As a result, the most recent installations are offering power at prices that are competitive with natural gas—not the cost of the plant and fuel, but the fuel alone.

    http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/10/utility-scale-solar-costs-down-by-half-in-last-five-years-alone/
    https://emp.lbl.gov/publications/utility-scale-solar-2014

    Energy’s a risky business, but fossil, particularly coal, is becoming the riskiest. Plus you have Shell taking a multi-billion hit on the Chukchi Sea dry well, BP’s Gulf settlement topping $20 billion….

    • You would have a point, if not for the fact that the only reason that coal is faltering is because of government regulation. The only reason Solar is doing well is also because of regulation. And Solar is STILL FALTERING even with government regulation and direct subsidies.

      If the governments of the world would let the market drive success and only intervene in relationship-abusive situations, we’d have moved on from Solar to something that might actually drive a better energy outlook. Instead, they are destabilizing the energy markets so that their subsidized, chosen winner will have a market it can compete in.

      • Arsten, if you think that the natural gas fracking in recent years is “government regulation” you are mistaken. Coal has been hammered because of regulations and because natural gas is now cheaper, and that price difference is the big driver. Even before CO2 controls are factored in, coal is too expensive in the US to face the competition.

        Regarding the regulations, I prefer less mercury in my food, less particulates and sulfur emissions in the air, and the coal industry has had a significant string of major fails where drinking water for hundreds of thousands has been put at risk because of the poor management of toxic ash waste.

        I don’t mind that BP had to pay to fix what they broke in the gulf, either.

        The Chinese government has openly admitted that pollution, mainly from coal plants without adequate regulation, has been killing over a million people a year. That’s one reason they’re now investing more in renewables than we are.

        Regarding “the market”, that’s why solar installation costs are dropping steadily, and why there’s so much investment in better efficiencies and cheaper materials. Wind energy gets cheaper, too, for the same reason. There’s a market for it.

        Globally the consumption of petroleum products is probably the biggest subsidy in the energy industry – by hundreds of billions compared to the 80-100 billion in renewable subsidies. And that doesn’t count the externalized costs of pollution and all the other things we end up paying for.

        Sure, the renewables industry is getting a boost right now. But would you shut down the nations railroads, trucking industry, airlines all because they got a boost from federal and state investment? How about rural electrification? Tell them to build their own coal plants?

        Here’s more market at work.

        $0.55 per watt from SolarCity’s record-breaking new solar panel
        By Graham Templeton on October 3, 2015 at 10:32 am
        http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/215555-0-55-per-watt-from-solarcitys-record-breaking-new-solar-panel

      • b fagan, at what point did I say anything about natural gas being subsidized, hm?

        As to your point, Coal might be able to stand against natural gas and compete, if it weren’t for regulations of those CO2 controls. That is the only reason a huge swath of coal power plants are shutting down. Because it is now cheaper to close your coal plant and build a natural gas plant than to continue using coal. Ultimately, coal could be in our power plan for the next 100 years without these regulations that, by the way, even proponents say is only to show leadership and not actually going to cause an effect to the evironment, even assuming the CO2 vs Temp hypothesis is correct.

        As for your preference for less crap in your food, the new mercury regulations are so far outside of the box of making something better, that they are useless. The same with the ULS mandates that came in for diesel a decade ago. There is no scientific evidence (actual, sound evidence, versus pet publishings based on things like LNT that the EPA paid for) that they can cite to show that those ULS emissions are better for you than the old LS emissions requirements.

        That’s the whole point that you repeatedly miss. EPA has regulated lower-than-toxic for what these sorts of industries might produce and instead of ramping up inspection to catch any violators in the act, they simply push out stricter regulations and assume a net benefit based on faulty study. If this is what any industry was doing, you’d be on here carping about how they deceived you and mercuritized your food and made you or some guy you know sick.

        In regards to “The Chinese government has openly admitted that pollution, mainly from coal plants without adequate regulation, has been killing over a million people a year. That’s one reason they’re now investing more in renewables than we are.”
        That’s because they are using coal plant designs with absolutely no regulation what so ever. That’s like saying “We need to have robotic cars that drive people around because these guys using Model Ts in 2015 get killed in accidents!” It’s ridiculous and misleading. The EPA’s stricter regulations are useless for their intended purpose.

        As for “Regarding “the market”, that’s why solar installation costs are dropping steadily” that is a false market. Only the subsidies are keeping solar installations alive. If the government(s) weren’t giving money or ultra-low rates on installing these on roofs, they wouldn’t be in demand because the payback period simply doesn’t exist without those ongoing subsidies for power (e.g. paying retail rates to people who feed energy into the grid instead of wholesale rates, or giving them super-cheap rates or very forgiving long-term loans – or both). Without that interference by the government in the market, the solar panel market simply would not exist and would not be as cheap as it is now. And even with the cheapness, in most cases where they are installed, you barely break even in 10-20 years on the panels themselves, and it gets worse when you add in battery storage.

        To the point of “why there’s so much investment in better efficiencies and cheaper materials” note that the claimed discoveries are still years away from manufacture. The best panels are 5x the cost and have an efficiency rating of 25% in ideal conditions. That’s not what is being put en masse on people’s houses because they will never be an ROI in the current market.

        As for your “Globally the consumption of petroleum products is probably the biggest subsidy in the energy industry – by hundreds of billions compared to the 80-100 billion in renewable subsidies. And that doesn’t count the externalized costs of pollution and all the other things we end up paying for.” that’s only true if you fudge the numbers in competitive industries and count government-owned companies as “subsidized,” First, you have to fudge the numbers and say that places like the US give them “subsidies” by the same tax breaks that all businesses are eligible for (the “R&D credits”) as well as the money paid for utility assistance to the poor (electric, gas, and heating oil utility payments) as some of the biggest estimates for “petroleum subsidies” do.

        On top that that, you then get to say the oil companies owned by places like Saudi Arabia or China are “subsidized” which is ridiculous. Not only do they pay for all of the costs of exploration, they pay for the entire government in countries like those. That is hardly a subsidy.

        You might also note that both of those subsidies are received by alternative energy companies, like solar and wind, but that they are never marked as “subsidies” to them. Especially all of the 51%-state-owned solar manufacturing in China.

        Your “market at work” isn’t. It would never have happened in a situation where the government didn’t pick a winner.

      • Sunpower quotes the efficiency of panel you can actually purchase and install. Not panels that you may be able to buy, when they get them into production.

        If Solar City purchased the company that makes these record breaking solar panels, how come we’ve never heard of them, and why aren’t they the top dog already, so they don’t need to get bought out, by Elon Musk ??

        Up until now, Solar City wouldn’t even publish the efficiency of their solar panels. You don’t buy their panels, you rent them YOUR roof space, at no charge, and they will sell you your own solar energy back to you, at a fixed rate, regardless of how inefficient their panels are.

        If I was to go for solar PV for my house, Solar City would be the last company, I would consider buying from.

    • That’s what usually happens when the govt is propping up an industry.
      The only reason why fossil is risky is because govt is trying to destroy it.

      Face it, your whole industry only exists because govt requires it to exist and is trying to destroy it’s competitors.

    • Yes, thanks to Obama’s anti-coal, pro-Big Green energy policies, at the expense of both ratepayers and taxpayers.

    • To MarkW, it’s not “my industry” though I did recently switch my energy provider over to a renewables mix – feeling that it’s only appropriate to put my money where I want it.

      Bruce, read again my comment about how the fracking revolution played a huge role in outcompeting coal. And please explain the collapse of the cost of petroleum in terms of “anti-coal” regulation.

      The energy industry is a big, risky commodity market and is being shaken up by a huge number of factors, ranging from constant price reductions in solar and wind technologies, to Saudi Arabia’s desire to maintain market share – even as Iran gets back into the global market.

      Coal is priced out in developed nations that don’t want to deal with the toxic load, or the cost of trying to deal with the toxic load. And energy storage is becoming a part of the mix as well – read the following report
      about energy storage in Texas – http://www.brattle.com/system/news/pdfs/000/000/749/original/The_Value_of_Distributed_Electricity_Storage_in_Texas.pdf

      Something very important I’ll point out – the report says energy storage will be a cost benefit to companies and consumers just a few years from now – and the report doesn’t really mention renewables.

      The energy industry is in turmoil right now because realistic replacements for coal are coming in and coal wasn’t ready. The coal industry will persist by increasing sales to nations that are still looking to poison their citizens, for several more decades.

      So yes, some in the solar industry might go broke. Ditto firms trying to develop grid-scale storage. But also firms in the fossil world.

      By the way, our host here promotes solar energy as an early adopter and has recommended it to various organizations near his home, so not sure why there’s such delight on responses to Worrall’s article.

      Am I pleased that Texas is losing jobs because we’re enjoying lower oil prices? No. But Texas is also a huge player in wind energy because they want electricity and they have great wind resources.

      It’s not a black-and-white world out there.

      • Once again fagan ignores the role of govt regulations in making coal and other fossil fuels expensive.
        It’s almost as if he doesn’t want to know.

      • MarkW, once more I don’t ignore the role of government regulation. I just don’t pretend it’s the only impact on any particular energy source’s success against the other sources.

        Natural gas got cheaper to produce. Not because investors in natural gas producers hate coal companies, but because they could make money. Coal can’t get cheaper – it’s fundamentally expensive if you want to take the transportation, the pollution and the waste storage out, and I haven’t even factored in CO2.

        So please look at figure 1 in the Congressional Budget Office Issue Brief from 2012 “Federal Financial Support For The Development And Production Of Fuels And Energy Technologies”

        http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/03-06-FuelsandEnergy_Brief.pdf

        Look closely at Figure 1 – Energy-Related Tax Preferences, by Type of Fuel or Technology (Billions of 2011 dollars)

        The fossil industry has taken billions more by far than other energy industries – that’s government regulation. The government was investing heavily in developing fossil fuel production capacity.

        Why? Well, national security, for one thing. Our government has spent an enormous amount of our money in military investment (and loss of lives) in the Middle East, also to keep our energy habit fed.

        So why do so many on this blog seem to be against the US government continuing to invest in our energy security? Look at an NREL map – we could generate enough electricity more than 10 times over to power the US with wind power on the plains and solar on rooftops – and no other nations actions will stop the wind or the sun – they’re not routed through the Persian Gulf.

        And don’t tell me it’s expensive to build the transmission capacity from wind states to urban centers – because the pipeline companies also want to spend a huge amount building transmission capacity in the form of pipelines. Those require constant investment, too – in Chicago they’re talking an 8 billion dollar tab to replace our gas mains.

        “The market” is a mix of corporations, consumers, R&D centers and government regulations AND investment, and has been since land grants led to our cross-country rail system.

        I say do away with the foolish options like using food for ethanol at the same time we do away with the stuff we don’t need any more like coal – it will take a few decades but we’ll be better off for it.

    • @b fagan

      Lawrence Berkeley National Labs released a report on the state of utility-scale solar installations in the US. […] As a result, the most recent installations are offering power at prices that are competitive with natural gas

      Good. In that case it should be competitive on the market on its own, with neither express nor hidden subsidies. No creative pricing schemes either, as taxpayer backed loan guarantees should be abandoned as well.

      The litmus test goes as follows: if a diesel generator hidden in your basement can be run all night, generating “solar power” profitably for the market, you failed. On top of that, engaging in such fraudulent activity should be criminalized. On the other hand, if you can replace actual solar power with anything else only at a loss, even if the product is fraudulently labelled “solar” and marketed as such, you passed the test.

      Now, have you failed or passed?

      Please note in the latter case there is no need to criminalize anything, because very few people are fool enough to buy a diesel generator, feed oil in it constantly, just to sell electricity at a lower price, than cost of generation. And even those fools would go bankrupt eventually.

      • So you’re asking for the “litmus test” to be as follows:

        All energy providers in the United States must immediately do away with any exploration credits, development credits, loan guarantees, import/export preferential treatment, special write offs for fracking proppants, exploration credits and also should pay full market rates for leases or easements allowing for any and all extraction for energy produced on or from federal and state lands?

        No, Berényi, I’d actually prefer something more like this:
        1 – we stop wasting time with ethanol requirements that put food into fuel tanks

        2 – we put a tax on carbon and increase it over time – including pricing on imports so US producers aren’t hurt by carbon cost differences

        3 – we continue a good level of government investment in basic R&D across energy production and efficiency research (and let the market decide what goes beyond basic research)

        4 – we figure out a pricing method where grid operators aren’t expected to fully fund upgrades needed on local distribution power networks as people add their own solar or wind.

        No magic wands, no diesel in the cellar. Gradual movement to greater and greater renewable penetration on an ever-evolving grid.

        Speaking of diesel – the transition starts where power costs are highest, like Hawaii.

        http://investors.solarcity.com/releasedetail.cfm?releaseid=930961

      • B Fagan
        Among your numerous errors you have mixed taxes with grants on table 1, which is a typical way liberals lie about subsidies for fossil fuels.
        Expensing of exploration and development costs for oil and
        natural gas
        0.8 Billion

        On the other hand we see that renewable fuels get credits for electricity generation without even expensing costs.

        And looking down further on Table 1, we see much more enormous sums as grants for so called renewable fuel.

        Just one example of the misinformation you posted.

        Oh by the way why not post the enormous taxes that fossil fuels pay to the US treasury and compare with the meager taxes if any from renewables.

        Finally your table is quite old.

      • Hi, Catcracking. Thank you for your kind comments. I clearly referenced “Tax Preferences” when I referred to Figure 1 – not Table 1 that you mention – and I didn’t say “grants”..

        So look again at my comments – they were specifically about the historical fact that the fossil industry has received industry-specific special tax treatment for a very long time, and has benefited more in aggregate from that.

        Please re-read the reply I made to Berényi – item 4 about who should bear cost of adding renewables to the distribution grid.

        But back to Table 1 which I hadn’t referred to – it’s the Congressional Budget Office who prepared the table, so I’m not the one who decided to include the 1603 Grant in a table of Tax Preferences.

        The table also includes the excise credit for alchohol fuels, and I’ve already said in my response to MarkW, I think ethanol’s a mistaken approach.

        So find a more current CBO report, but read my comments more carefully, too.

      • b fagan,
        It was your link that gave the entire story you tried to distort, don’t complain that I gave the entire story..
        The table shows that the tax breaks are not tax breaks but the ability to deduct legitimate expenses for the fossil fuels. Of course that is the repeated lie of conflating legal tax deductions for expenses with outright grants on the taxpayer dime which the middle class have to pay for..
        Furthermore it provides all the special grants and tax credits that only renewable fuels get.
        Maybe you should compare the taxes paid by fossil fuels versus renewable, very inconvenient for the message you want to leave on your post .
        Finally why post such an old document. get up to date with your info.

    • Fagan, I actually think solar will one day have a part to play.

      When self aware robots are busy erecting huge robot built solar arrays in space, to beam an endless supply of power to Earth, without any need for human supervision, nobody will be complaining about the cost of solar energy.

      • Worrall, microwave powersats have long been talked about and Japan’s showing interest in them now- becuase they have so little available energy of their own and have a bit of a nuclear problem.

        In the meantime, the EIA has this to say about electrical generation in the US between now and 2040 – (Annual Energy Outlook 2015 with projections to 2040)

        “Renewable capacity additions are significant in most of the cases, and in the Reference case they represent 38% of the capacity added from 2013 to 2040. The 109 GW of renewable capacity additions
        in the Reference case are primarily wind (49 GW) and solar (48 GW) technologies, including 31 GW of solar PV installations in the end-use sectors. The renewable share of total additions ranges from 22% in the High Oil and Gas Resource case to 51% in the High Oil Price case, reflecting the relative economics of natural gas-fired power plants, which are the primary choice for new generating capacity.”

        Also note that since 2001 Germany has gone from getting ~ 0.01% of their electricity from solar, to getting 5.69% last year (BP Statistical review of energy 2015). Germany’s southernmost point is north of the 47th parallel, which also runs through North Dakota. So not as amply provided with sunlight as the rooftops of the United States. And the German economy remains in better shape than the rest of Europe’s.

        No, we’ve got an energy change happening right now, and sure, individual companies will run into financial problems – as can be witnessed by the multiple coal company bankruptcies, and the multiple bankruptcies, consolidations and layoffs in the oil and gas industry – here and around the world.

        Getting off of commodity fossil will take a while, but it’s doable and it should be done. I think work being done by IEEE and other standards bodies to actively address integration of renewables and storage into the transmission and distribution grids is going to accelerate the pace of change.

      • Why is electricity so expensive in Germany? Renewable s!! What are they doing?

        Why are they building numerous new coal fired plants if renewable was so great?
        https://carboncounter.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/why-germanys-nuclear-phaseout-is-leading-to-more-coal-burning/

        “Between 2011 and 2015 Germany will open 10.7 GW of new coal fired power stations. This is more new coal coal capacity than was constructed in the entire two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The expected annual electricity production of these power stations will far exceed that of existing solar panels and will be approximately the same as that of Germany’s existing solar panels and wind turbines combined. Solar panels and wind turbines however have expected life spans of no more than 25 years. Coal power plants typically last 50 years or longer. At best you could call the recent developments in Germany’s electricity sector contradictory.”
        Please do not try to deceive the informed.

  15. I’m really surprised that there is so little focus on the disastrous financial history of bankrupt and poorly managed solar companies,
    I’ll mention just a few (not even updated with the latest crash landings):

    – Areva’s solar business (CSP) closed (Areva’s solar unit consisted of the remains of the acquired startup Ausra).
    – HelioVolt (CIGS thin-film PV) closed. HelioVolt was founded in 2001 and aimed to fabricate CIGS solar panels.
    – LDK (vertically integrated module builder) filed for bankruptcy
    – Masdar PV (a-Si) closed its SunFab-based amorphous silicon PV factory in Germany.
    – SolarMax (PV inverters) — Swiss inverter maker SolarMax’s parent firm, Sputnik Engineering, filed for insolvency.
    – Sopogy (small-scale CSP) closed
    – TEL (a-Si) withdrew from its a-Si solar business in 2014
    – Xunlight (a-Si) went bankrupt
    – and so and so on….

    • Add Nano Solar, Twin Creeks, Hemlock Solar, and Stion. They were all about questionable loans and Federal grants and less about competitiveness, production, and financial accountability.

  16. Today I did a random search for lists of the top renewable energy companies, looking for prognostics from a few years ago so there would be a performance record and found an article touting the top 4 companies of the time (appx 2008). I then looked up each company and it came as no surprise these top companies proved to be terrible investments. Have a look then repeat the method until you find a renewable company that has a 5-year record that would cause you to jump on the bandwagon.

    http://exploringgreentechnology.com/solar-energy/top-solar-energy-companies/

    It’s bad enough my tax dollars are being wasted in this market – I certainly see no reason to throw my personal fortune (such as it is) at it.

    • This is not surprising since they are providing products that the free market does not want. They cannot compete on global terms in the free market place.

      These companies are entirely dependent upon subsidies, either direct from the government dishing out tax payer’s dollars, or by the government creating an artificial need for their products which is eventually paid by the consumer in the form of higher energy bills, or high prices at the shops.

      The government’s interference is slowing down the discovery of truly economic alternative energy supplies.

      • “The government’s interference is slowing down the discovery of truly economic alternative energy supplies.”
        Amen, what is new?
        Subsidizing and demanding 15th century technology only sets us back. It is called picking losers.
        Tell me what energy contribution the DOE has contributed with the billions of dollars wasted?
        Compare that with the energy contribution from fracking which has brought the price of energy down to a level totally unexpected even with government attempts to kill it..

  17. Re “– but given Obama’s recent pledge to dramatically increase federal assistance for renewable energy, such guarantees are a possibility.”, one thing that has dramatically increased is the number of phone calls from solar installers. California solar scams are on the rise:
    http://www.ocregister.com/articles/solar-686007-state-california.html
    As the push for solar increases, so do the scams, sketchy sales tactics
    Oct. 3, 2015
    Updated Oct. 5, 2015 7:50 a.m.
    “Solar scams are on the rise, as some companies hit homeowners with increasingly aggressive sales and marketing tactics, and under-deliver on promises of low installation cost and big electricity savings.

    “Recent stories from around the state include a solar installer climbing atop a home without permission to take roof measurements and contractors pulling city building permits even before customers sign contracts, state officials say.”

  18. I’d suggest that SunEdison’s stock drop and small rise are more due to rumours surrounding COP 21 – they won’t make any substantive gains, they’ve agreed on big changes, etc.

    The only really reliable indicator in the stock market is that the total market will likely yield gains in the range 10% +/- over a range of 5-15 +/- years. The governments will do everything they can(too big to fail, stimulus, huge public debt, etc) to try and keep it in at least believably healthy state before they cash out of office!

  19. Recent acquisitions have nearly doubled SunEdison’s debt load and increased negative operating cash flow. The Vivint acquisition, which wasn’t an obvious fit with SunEdison’s culture and traditional business of building large solar-power plants, added to investor skepticism.

    The stock has become a playground for hedge funds.

    Besides, SunEdison may have triggered a margin call on its $410 million margin loan.

    • From that Greentech media article:

      In a vote of confidence in the company, Chatila purchased 9,700 shares of stock in August and an additional 4,800 in September. He now owns 850,472 shares in the company. Chief Financial Officer Brian Wuebbels also purchased 50,000 shares in August.

      They made a little money today.

  20. Despite all the arm-waving, the faux industry of Big Green, which is a subsidiary of Big Climate, is built on lies, and on the backs of both ratepayers and taxpayers.

  21. Just to finish a thread: Of the “rare and nonrecylable materials” (could be one or the other), aluminum is described by George as being “as common as dirt.” Show me an aluminum nugget sometime, to prove the point. Hard to come by. Raw aluminum is never found in nature. You have to dissolve bauxite in molten cryolite and separate aluminum from oxygen by electrolysis. Releases lots of fluorine in the process, not well contained. (I lived not too far from an aluminum “smelter.” We call it a smelter, but the process is not smelting.) The point being, that the aluminum comes at the cost of the electrical energy needed to separate it from its oxide and keep the whole process at molten aluminum temperature.

    There are trace elements (dopants) in the silicon solar cells that eventually migrate through the silicon and reduce the effectiveness of the cells. I think any solar cell has, in principle, a maximum energy recovery due to lifetime effects. How do you separate dopants from silicon? I have no idea; they are trace quantities. This is probably what was meant by “nonrecyclable”. Like the paint on a can of Monster energy drink. You can recycle the aluminum, but you can’t recycle the paint.

    The list goes on and on. The only really recyclable way of obtaining solar energy is to plant trees, grow them, cut them down, and burn them. Oops! The carbon cycle! Oh, well…

    • “””””….. How do you separate dopants from silicon? I have no idea; they are trace quantities. …..”””””

      So Michael, why are you talking here about something that you have “no idea” about ??

      You don’t find Silicon lying around in foot diameter single crystal ingots either so what is the relevance of having to get Aluminum out of its ores.

      Oxygen, Silicon, and Aluminum in that order are the three most abundant elements in the earth’s crust.

      So as I said they are as common as dirt since that’s what earth’s crust consists of mostly.

      Oxygen is almost half of the earth’s crust, and silicon is a bit more than one quarter.

      Gee, just about like in SiO2.

      Aluminum is the commonest metal and is twice as abundant as iron which is the second most plentiful metal.

      And in order to make silicon photocells (solar cells) you first have to (re)cycle the native ore, and remove virtually ALL of the impurities, until it is 99.99999% or more purity.

      The “dopants” deliberately introduced into the pure silicon to make solar cells, are orders of magnitude higher in concentration than in seven nines pure silicon. And recycling the silicon to get back to pure silicon is trivial.

      Same goes for GaAs. We used to grow single crystal GaAs in about one kg sizes. That wasn’t the limit, but was a size that could be conveniently handled in the production environment we had. We had 72 Horizontal Bridgeman gradient freeze crystal growing furnaces (all of which we built ourselves, and we were about to double that number, until we came up with alternative designs for LED numeric displays for hand held calculators, that cut the material needs in half.

      The scrap material including diamond sawing rubble was recycled to regenerate 7 nines purity Gallium. We supplied about half of our crystal growing raw gallium, from our own recycling (on site) and the other half from purchases. The amount of Gallium we could get was only limited by how much we needed.

      As the LED industry grew, the Aluminum companies simply extracted more Gallium from their aluminum processes, as needed.

      Earth’s crust contains O, Si, And Al in just about the right ratio to supply the semiconductor needs of solar panels. So there is no shortage of raw materials.

      As for any rare earths used in high strength magnets; just wait till everybody’s car has electric motors instead of fossil fuelled engines, if you want to see a bottle neck.

      And I’m about done with wasting my time dealing with straw men created by people who ” don’t have any idea “.

      I’m sure that Google can link you to reams of information about any aspect of PV solar you want to learn about. Well I assume that they can.

      Maybe they can’t.

      • Well, I beg your pardon for taking your simile seriously. Aluminum is notorious for its intractability toward chemical isolation. Napoleon had a cup of aluminum that he prized above dinnerware of gold, because it was probably the only such sample of the metal in the world, in his day. My back yard dirt is common enough that I can go out and scoop it up with my hands. I don’t have to worry about cryolite, high temperatures, and huge electrical powerplants to help me out.

        What is interesting is your statement that silicon can be recycled back to high purity. I was expecting the situation might have been similar to recycling of aluminum, where it is accepted that the alloy elements are along for the ride, and the recycled aluminum will simply not be of very high purity. Or, it may have been simpler to burn the silicon back to the oxide and start over from scratch (it works better that way with trees). And I’m not disputing anything with you on that one.

      • Michael, we have something like 92 different elements in the earth’s crust, and you would be surprised as to how they vary in properties from one to another.

        So you can’t substitute Aluminum (an electro-negative metal) for sulfur (a non metal) in the construction of an airplane fuselage; or vice versa.

        Different elements have different properties so they get used for different applications.

        Now Aluminum; the commonest metal, as ordinarily fabricated just does not like to exist in a structured single crystalline form, but it can form alloys that contain solid solutions and also compounds.

        Silicon on the other hand, like carbon, has a very stable and densely compact single crystal structure, that can easily be grown.

        Both carbon and silicon, and Germanium, (also alpha tin) all can crystallize in the
        ” diamond lattice “, to give the most compact sold forms we know of, and in the case of carbon, the hardest known. These crystals, at least the silicon, and germanium ones can be grown on a seed crystal, and pulled out of a melt of the material into a large single crystal. The interface between the liquid melt, and the solid crystal, is maintained very accurately at the melting/freezing Temperature.

        So you can take all of your scrap silicon (or raw silicon) and melt it. Some kinds of impurities can be removed from the melt by chemical processes, which don’t attack the silicon.

        At the boundary between the solid and the liquid, a process called segregation takes place, and some impurity (a) dissolved in the molten silicon, will pass into the solid crystal and some of it will remain in the liquid. How much does which is governed by the ” segregation coefficient “, and in the case of most crystal growth processes, and most difficult to remove contaminants, the segregation coefficients are such as to highly favor the liquid phase over the solid phase for the impurities to go.

        The result is that the vast majority of common contaminants are highly rejected from the growing solid phase, resulting in the solid being much more pure that the liquid. As the crystal grows, the melt will of course become more and more contaminated, and usually the result is a sort of floating ” slag ” forms on the melt, which can be physically skimmed off, and rejected, or reprocessed elsewhere.

        The melting and recrystallization process can be repeated several times , each time resulting in a further purification of the silicon.

        In the case of diamond and silicon, and germanium, the crystal structure is so compact compared to the liquid phase, that impurity atoms, particularly larger ones are highly rejected by the lattice growing process; they just don’t fit so they ” drop off ”

        It is simply Henry’s law at a liquid solid interface, rather than a liquid gaseous interface.

        Exactly the same thing happens when sea ice melts and re-freezes.

        Both gas impurities, such as CO2, and solid impurities such as NaCl are highly rejected by the segregation coefficients for those molecules when the ocean water freezes, so CO2 is expelled into the water, and then into the air in keeping with Henry’s law, and so is all the salt so the ice is fresh water ice (maybe with liquid brine inclusions.).

        When we recycled our gallium, which is a liquid at near room Temperatures, we used chemical cleaning, using both organic solvents, and acid type solvents to remove most of the impurities, but the major purification step was the gradient freeing process, where the liquid is cooled in a vessel with a Temperature gradient along it, and as the Temperature is dropped, the freezing interface moves along the material sweeping the impurities in front of it, so they remain in the liquid phase.

        You could probably purify molten aluminum (in an inert atmosphere) with a gradient freeze process, because the segregation process, isn’t limited to single crystal growth.

        In any case it is a very inefficient learning process, to assume that what you know about one subject can be simply transported to a different subject, because most of those assumptions will be wrong.

        That is why we don’t teach mathematics in an English language class, because they aren’t even vaguely similar.

        Nor are the properties of our 92 elements.

        So don’t try extrapolating rusting iron in sea water, and trying the same process on say Lithium or Potassium; you are likely to get some surprises if you try that.

        g

        If you want to believe that I just make all this stuff up; that’s ok with me; I don’t care.

        But I do care, if your ignorance, gets in the way of somebody else’s attempt to learn something.

        And, I shouldn’t need to repeat: ” Ignorance is NOT a disease; we are all born with it. But stupidity has to be taught, and there are many willing and able to teach it. ”

        So try doing a little research on your own, before you assume that I’m just making stuff up.

        And I don’t have to Giggle it or Wikipate it. I’ve already lived it, for more than half a century.

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