The solar energy market in the United States is growing rapidly, with a 70% increase from 2009 to 2010 and expectations for continued growth in the future . During this expansion many market players are emerging, some of which will be successful and some of which that will not be. One notable example of a company that was unsuccessful is Solyndra. Solyndra filed for bankruptcy last year after receiving federal loan guarantees, striking controversy about governmental involvement in energy investment [2, 3].
More recently, the Solar Trust of America filed for bankruptcy at the beginning of this month, following the collapse of their major financial backer, Solar Millennium, in Germany . Solar Trust was developing the largest photovoltaic project in the world, the Blythe Solar Power Project, a 1000 MW plant in southern California. Recently, Solar Trust received an extension on their loans during bankruptcy proceedings to allow them more time to find potential buyers . One of these potential buyers is the solar and wind company NextEra Energy Resources.
This is an example of both successful and unsuccessful companies. In particular, the Blythe project represents a huge potential for the solar industry, as it would single-handedly increase the total U.S. photovoltaic capacity, 2152.5 MW, by almost 50% . This project, if successfully sold by Solar Trust and then completed, would provide a huge boost to whichever company is able to operate it, possibly NextEra. Operating nearly 1/3 of all photovoltaic systems in the U.S. would provide a platform for success for at least one U.S. based solar company.
As the market continues to expand, the winners of the solar world will begin to emerge. Just as the tech world had its boom and rapid expansion during the 90’s and 00’s, clean energy is beginning to expand. And while, as mentioned frequently by Dr. Webber, the energy sector needs significantly more capital for infrastructure than the tech industry, it will still be possible for large investors and even the U.S. government to help the solar industry continue its rapid growth. While the failure, and subsequent harsh criticism, of governmental aid to Solyndra will possibly make governmental aid slower to act in the future, the government is particularly good at facilitating building infrastructure. One current example of this is the construction of transmission lines in Texas for wind power .
A successful sale of the Blythe project will help to demonstrate the potential of solar power, helping to create at least one big success in the solar world. Maybe with this success the failures of Solyndra will fall out of the forefront of investor’s minds. The solar industry will find its leader in the coming years, possibly before this decade is out. Maybe even this year. I expect that by the end of the decade the big players in the solar game will have emerged. Further development of transmission lines to key areas as well as federal and state stimulus through tax credits and renewable mandates will help this growth. Any new technology will be fraught with pitfalls during its development, but leaders will surface. Despite the two high profile failures of Solyndra and Solar Trust of America, it will continue to grow. Soon we will see the successes as well.
 Sherwood, Larry. “U.S. Solar Market Trends 2010.” Interstate Renewable Energy Council. (June 2011).
 “Solyndra.” New York Times Business Day. (Nov. 17, 2011) Accessed April 28, 2012 from http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/solyndra/index.html
 Plumer, Brad. “Five Myths about the Solyndra Collapse.” The Washington Post Wonk Blog. Sept. 14, 2011. Accessed April 28, 2012 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/five-myths-about-the-solyndra-collapse/2011/09/14/gIQAfkyvRK_blog.html
 Stempel, Jonathan. “Solar Trust of America Files for Bankruptcy.” Reuters. April 2, 2012 Accessed April 28, 2012 from http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/02/us-solartrust-bankruptcy-idUSBRE8310ZV20120402
 Herndon, Andrew. “Solar Trust of America gets Funding, More Time to Entertain Bids.” Bloomberg. April 26, 2012 Accessed April 28, 2012 from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-26/solar-trust-of-america-gets-funding-more-time-to-entertain-bids.html
 Gerdes, Justin. “’Game-Changing’ Transmission Link would Deliver Texas Wind Power to the Southeast.” Forbes. Jan. 18, 2012 Accessed April 28, 2012 from http://www.forbes.com/sites/justingerdes/2012/01/18/game-changing-transmission-link-would-deliver-texas-wind-power-to-the-southeast/