posted on Sep, 12 2005 @ 11:05 AM
BP Solar has been a player in the photovoltaics (PV) business back to the time when I was working as a systems engineer for Solavolt International (a
Shell Oil-Motorola joint venture) in the late eighties.
ARCO Solar was also a big player, and it, too, was an oil company outfit.
But whay are you surprised? The oil companies know as well as anyone else that the supply of hydrocarbons is limited and it will cost more and more
to make it available as time passes. Don't think of these guys as just "oil" companies; they're energy companies, and they want to have a
piece of whatever energy is sold to the consumers in twenty, fifty, or a hundred years. That's how they make their money.
Interestingly enough, in the late seventies/early eighties, when the PURPA legislation was passed mandating tax credits, etc. for alternative energy
producers, the oil companies thought that they needed to get a handle on PV. This was why they set the PV R&D companies up in the first place.
What happened is that they learned that PV simply can't compete with cheap hydrocarbons, even with tax breaks, and there wasn't much money to be
made in building PV systems. So Shell did the sensible business-case move and bailed. The other oil companies did the same, or sold their interest
to other outfits, or just scaled way back. Now that the costs are higher and the PV systems a bit more efficient, we're gettin close (but we're not
there yet) to a price/cost crossover point where PV makes economic sense.
This is why the energy companies are getting involved again. No Secret Insidious Conspiracy, just common business sense.