Solar bubble

Get out the sunscreen: Solar power hype is blowing up

Published October 24, 2006 8:16PM (EDT)

Two years ago, there were five publicly traded solar power companies. Last year, 30. This year, 60.

The numbers are from a muddled UPI article that is a little confusing. It's not clear where these companies are traded. Worldwide? Europe? The U.S.? But if the trendline is accurate, it's pointed rather steeply upwards and to the right.

Does that mean bubble? The dot-com boom is ancient history and housing's glory days are long gone. Is it time to put your money on greentech? The explosion of solar companies with shares available suggests someone thinks so. And you'd need a pretty big parasol to block the rays of solar hype currently beaming from every direction.

Treehugger informs us today that Home Depot is moving into the solar power consumer installation market. Google made a big splash two weeks ago when it announced plans to install 1.6 megawatts of solar power generating capacity on its sprawling Silicon Valley headquarters. In August California governor Arnold Schwarnegger signed into law the much-ballyhooed Million Solar Roofs Initiative.

So is "pop" the next sound we're going to hear? Or are we merely faced with the possiblity of some minor turbulence?

In a recently published book preaching the inevitability of the solar power "solution," Travis Bickford, president of the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development, calls the oncoming solar power surge a second "silicon revolution."

Like the first silicon revolution, the next one will see industries transformed and massive wealth created. Solar millionaires and billionaires will emerge, and markets may even experience a bubble or two of speculative excitement. However, in the end -- undoubtedly within our lifetime -- we will arrive at a world that is safer, cleaner, and wealthier for industrialized economies and developing ones and in which solar energy will play a dominant role in meeting our collective energy needs.

Call now for your free Home Depot installation consultation!

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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