Me and the Solyndra Flare-out – Part 2

The Top Gun training system with which I was part of for close to 30 years made extensive use of solar panels for our remote tracking sites. In 1980-81 I made a trip to Automatic Power in Houston, the supplier of our solar panels.

While there, the general manager showed us a book containing hundreds of  proposals submitted to the U.S. Government requesting grants or other subsidies to fund the latest ideas in solar panel production. As I recall, the book was on the order of two to three inches thick, and the GM stated that such a book was produced every year. He went on to say that most if not all of these proposals were junk.

The reason they were junk according to the GM, was this: solar panels were/are very expensive to make, requiring much energy to build; so much energy that the payback in energy savings for the end-user was so far into the future as to be totally impractical from a financial point of view. The energy required to produce the panels came from the electric grid, and again the payback was years into the future.  Thus solar panels were relegated to the nitch market for users such as us where conventional power was simply not available; places such as the deserts of California, Nevada and Arizona; and off the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Other nitch users are the Coast Guard in marking shipping panels.

The Solyndra scandal tells me two things: solar panel manufacturing still suffers the same constraints as 30-40 years ago; and someone finally hit the jackpot and suckered someone to buy into their proposals in one of these three-inch books.

Remember this folks; Government stimulus packages that we’ve seen in recent years are little more than very large “Targets of Opportunity” for scoundrels, and can only hurt all of us. When you see them being proposed, be very, very afraid.


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