This government subsidized oversupply is good for consumers as it is pushing prices down.
By the way: The European solar industry is suffering, too. Germany was the world leader in solar a few years ago when they had a leftwing/green government which heavily subsidized solar and other "green" energy solutions. Then a new rightwing government rose to power and rapidly cut subsidies. Now all of their big solar companies except one are bankrupt.
This isn't truly alt-energy related. Why did Willie Sutton rob banks? Because that's where the money was.
You get governments handing out dough indiscriminately, and fer sure, some people will do dishonest things with it. Others, with stars in their eyes, will simply fail, despite some monetary help - what they needed was management help. The stars are good for getting a company started, but then you need a more realistic attitude.
It's a hard business to make it in. Over the time I've been doing it (30+ years), I've had to change vendor-distributers a number of times due to them going out of business. Not because they were doing something dishonest, but because it's like being in a business (as I once was when I booted up the digital recording studio world) - where all your customers are broke. Until quite recently, all the people who wanted alt energy were basically those willing to live in homesteading conditions or tents.
It's only lately, and as the price of solar for example, has dropped so rapidly many just can't fathom the impact - that well-off people are getting into it. And, look at repeat business for selling systems that last at least 3 decades. Oops. I notice over on the chevy-volt forums that quite a lot of the wealthier are now picking up on solar, that's a new thing.
My first panels were about $7/watt. They floated in there, $6-7/watt for decades. Then suddenly I'm paying $1.47/watt - shipped. People caught with old-skool fabrication lines, a lot of capex involved, were instantly dead - or strung along as the financial system has allowed, but they were basically dead men walking overnight.
When prices fall that fast - minor-appearing things - for example, BP solar used a little thicker and better glass and aluminum frames - have to go, and go instantly. It's not trivial to retool a factory when you're already overburdened with inventory of finished product and supplies to make more of the same, but not a new design, and no money...
The newer panels, even my favored poly xtal ones - are not as well made as the older ones were, due to this. Glass is half as thick, the whole thing you now have to be careful how you pick it up so you don't break it with its own weight, gheesh. The old ones would take a direct hit from a lawnmower rock and not notice.
DCFusor- understand your points... but don't make me as a taxpayer pay for your mistakes or hardships. Why must the taxpayer continually assume the risks with these "loans" but never directly reap the rewards?
I'm in general agreement with that one, actually. I don't think the gov should have been involved in most of this loan business this late in the solar game at all, it's not the best place and time for that, no matter whose money it was. And the fact that China, Germany, and others are now kicking us around the block in solar kinda says it all - they did subsidies too - but not half-assed in any way.
And of course, in this case, the rewards are now out there for anyone who thought solar was stupid at $6/watt, but pretty smart at $1.47 (for made in America stuff, Chinese is cheaper- in all senses of the word). There could be a time when many here benefit from this, as I am now. I like not paying "rent" for the electricity most people think they "need" to live - partly because there's no rent control program for that, partly because I like having, well, power over my power.
Where government money is good is when there's no private money around to do something it's hard to get private money for - but we can see it's still worth doing.
Pure research, in other words, that may or may not ever pay off - but no matter what, Pfeizer isn't going to develop a drug that only sells in small amounts, either because what it treats is rare, or because unlike most drugs, it cures people and destroys its own market. Oh, no, we can't develop such drugs - we want expensive drugs you have to take for the rest of your life and long patent durations. And then we want to hang another carbon or hydrogen off the non functioning part of the molecule and patent it again...and again...
There was a time when solar was there, but that's not been for a very long time now - and the gov should have been out of it long since, IMO. This time it was an attempt (failed) to interfere with the free markets, and keeping China from totally blindsiding the solar business here. It failed, of course, and it probably would have been better to let the market take its course. Then everyone would know the quality there is utter crap - and when people found out the Chinese stuff stank, and was the only you could get because everyone else left the business, then, and only then, should we have helped it rise from the ashes with higher quality stuff. Consumers in this area are pretty dumb, and look only at price on something you should expect to last a lifetime...total cost of ownership blows right past most consumers.
Sadly, since about the time of my birth, government has gotten almost entirely out of pure research. All the "research money" goes through DOD projects to develop those kinds of capabilities. Even the huge amount of money NIH gets is all "goal directed" with little pure research to just find out new things that might change the world.
If you actually follow the money, the amount that's spent wisely is pretty small as a percentage, which should be no surprise to anyone who follows the antics of government - it's mostly about finding a way to reward cronies, not for the good of the people, has been for quite a long time now.
It's not that DOD money is all wasted. Without it, we'd still be at the point of having big wirewrapped boards to make a computer 2' by 2' by 6' tall that needs air-conditioning to run at all - with a meg of disk and 64k of ram - I used to fix those for a living. But the DOD needed integrated circuits for missile guidance, and the rest is history. You'd be amazed at how much of modern tech was developed in secret with DOD or DARPA or NSA money - sealed hard disks...flash...dram...leds...it's a long list just in electronics. Quite a lot of that has another public story, but back in the day, that's where IBM's money was coming from mostly - and they and Bell Labs and a few others are responsible for the world we live in - because outfits like NSA needed help with basic research. Some of this I know because I was there - I was one of those guys.
I think the outrage ought to be generally about "socializing the risks and privatizing all benefits" and it should apply to quite a few fields other than the ones under discussion here - why should big pharma be able to bootstrap off gov money research, then charge $65/pill for something that costs $0.20 to make? Is that morally any different than solar subsidies? Or bankster bailouts? That whole ugly mess is completely out of control, and the piper's coming back for his pay.
And in the drug case, your only benefit is being able to buy it at all, not a cheaper price, which at least we do get in other cases. And, when it was found that aspirin was truly a wonder drug - no private company would pay for THAT study, since there's no money in it for them - but the gov stepped up - one of the few good things they've done in awhile.
Why do power companies get a guaranteed profit? They operate cost plus fixed profit, you know, at least in the states with their rate setting commissions, totally capture of course, and the costs are always fudged higher. In fact, here we had a rate increase that the SCC didn't approve - but the company pushed it through anyway, and made it stick. Why do the medical insurance companies get this massive subsidy, and the same "guaranteed profit" margins? This of course means no serious attention is ever really paid to costs - why should they when their profits go UP as costs rise - just pass it through with a little extra skimmed off the top?
It's everywhere you look. It's a result of corporate capture of the legal and government system as far as I can tell. My point there is - don't pick out just one area to get upset about - that's just one of the symptoms. The disease is much more widespread.
FWIW, my new made in America solar panels - a few $k worth, to charge the made in America car, were made by Schott - a German company, but in America.