One of the most disruptive issues now before utilities is whether solar power has staying power, and whether it is ready for prime time.
Disruption – in a variety of guises - will be front and center at the EnergyBiz Leadership Forum in Washington March 19-21.
Last week – lights were definitely burning brightly in the solar sector. There was MidAmerican Energy’s decision to buy the Topaz solar power plant in California from First Solar. The installation is said to be worth more than $2 billion.
MidAmerican is a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. And the sage of Omaha is not noted for making many mistakes. Large solar generation installations may be doing well. The solar panel business, however, has some serious issues.
Now new industry figures in the Wall Street Journal nailed the serious glut of supply saddling the solar sector. “…global panel manufacturing capacity has grown 12-fold in five years, but a third of that lies idle,” the paper reported.
And get this. The oversupply of panels sloshing about in warehouses a year ago amounted to 10 gigawatts of potential energy – about 25 percent of the panels now deployed around the globe. That is a serious glut.
Congress is being asked to decide about subsidies for solar and wind. Yet there are so many solar panels awaiting deployment you wonder why anyone would ask taxpayers to pony up funds to manufacture more. It seems to me we need some manufacturers to disappear – or to find a way to stay in business while slashing costs and making solar even more competitively priced.
Solar manufacturers have to build a viable business for their product – fast – or utilities and other generators will rush to natural gas so fast it will be lights out for solar.
The EnergyBiz Leadership Forum next month will have nine utility CEOs on hand presenting their views on the hugely disruptive forces they must contend with. Joining them will be Eric Greitens, Navy Seal, business leader and philanthropist and Sen. Byron Dorgan, who is leading the way towards a bipartisan energy policy. The event takes place in Washington March 19-21st. Check out our website for more information or ping me with questions. http://energybizforum.com/