A new article at Bloomberg BusinessWeek finds that the booming U.S. solar industry is “luring cash at record rates from investors ranging from Warren Buffett to Google Inc. (GOOG) and KKR & Co. by offering returns on projects four times those available for Treasury securities…returns of about 15 percent, according to Stanford University’s center for energy policy and finance.” A few more points from the BusinessWeek article are well worth highlighting:
- Stanford University’s Center for Energy Policy and Finance director Dan Reicher’s quote: “The beauty of solar is once you make the capital investment, you’ve got free fuel and very low operating costs.”
- “A solar power project with a long-term sales agreement could be viewed as a machine that generates revenue” (per Marty Klepper, “an attorney at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, which helped arrange a solar deal for Buffett”).
- “Solar investing isn’t just for specialist banks any more,” with “more and more investors entering this sector.”
- The gigantic retailer WalMart may very well jump at this opportunity, as “steady returns from solar farms may meet the retailer’s threshold.”
Clearly, the BusinessWeek story stands in stark contrast with the anti-clean-energy rhetoric coming from pro-dirty-energy voices, such as Robert Bryce of the fossil fuel industry-funded Manhattan Institute, or “consultant and former high-tech senior executive” Steve Tobak at CBS Money Watch (author of “The great green energy hoax”). Do these two gentlemen know something Warren Buffett and Eric Schmidt don’t?
Fortunately, unlike the gloom-and-doom narrative that Bryce, Tobak et al. are paid to push about cleantech, the reality is that solar’s creating jobs like gangbusters. Perhaps the Bryces and Tobaks of the world don’t understand this fact, but solar industry executives certainly do, from hands-on experience, and as The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census found in its analysis of U.S. employment numbers.
The bottom line is that, to the dismay of critics, solar power is booming, as is cleantech in general, no matter what the dirty energy guys say. But sure, if the fossil fuel folks want to miss out on the investment opportunity of a lifetime, that’s their choice. The rest of us certainly don’t have to listen to them!