We love a Solar Power House on this blog. However, the fact remains that the future of Solar Power Homes lie in utility scale mega solar power plants rather than a few solar panels scattered across the roof-top of individual homes. They have their place, but for now roof-top solar panels are simply too expensive and not necessarily greener than traditional electricity sources. In fact by many estimates, it takes more energy to produce a solar panel than what the panel will produce over its entire life-time. More on this in a blog-post to-come.
Utility scale solar power plants (and that too the ones which use solar thermal technology, not photovoltaic or more commonly referred to as solar panels) are the only ones, which come close to providing electricity reliably to 1000s of homes at reasonable prices.
So when I heard that the delays in passing President Obamas economic stimulus package through Congress is impacting some solar power plant operators, my ears perked up.
Solar power companies, like other industrial companies, are capital intensive in nature. They need large amount of upfront investments to get going. In traditional times these companies typically raise money by either borrowing (Bonds, other debts) or raising cash in stock markets. However, with the massive credit crunch and underperforming equity markets, neither of those is a viable option. Credit and cash, the lifeblood of a viable economy has dried up. In these times, their only source of help is government aid.
For example, BrightSource Energy Inc. has signed contracts with California utility PG&E to provide 900 MW of solar thermal power. However, it still hasnt secured financing for the project which is scheduled to start power delivery by end 2011.
According to an interview of the CEO, John Woolard as reported in this Reuters article
We should be able to turn dirt over and start construction in the fourth quarter of this year, but big financings dont come in months, Chief Executive John Woolard said in an interview at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Depending on what happens out of the stimulus bill, it could get pushed back.
If you were to wait for private markets to come back completely, youd be waiting a long time. But if you look at what you can do with the right amount of government support, you could see things happen this year, he said, calling the stimulus package one of the most important pieces of legislation in renewables, period.
Lets hope, that Barack Obama who has run his campaign on a platform of Hope, backs up hope with some real $ for the solar power sector.