When the Going Gets Tough, BP Runs...While it is well-known that the solar industry is highly cyclical, the general trend is definitely in an upward direction, with rapid double-digit yearly growth in production capacity and plenty of money to be made by the smartest players (both Warren Buffett and Google have recently invested in solar power). But apparently, when the going gets tough, BP cuts and runs. After 40 years of existence, now that solar power is more necessary than ever, the giant oil company has decided to drop its solar division. So much for 'Beyond Petroleum', a recent BP slogan, eh?
BP Could Not Compete
The solar power industry is currently in consolidation mode. Prices have fallen rapidly and there is some oversupply, so the least efficient players are folding. It looks like that's what is happening to BP Solar. It's too bad, really, because if BP really wanted to make it a success, there's no reason why it couldn't have used some of its oil profits to whip the solar division into shape by doing whatever was necessary to make it a leader. R&D investments, modern manufacturing plants, even relocating some production to lower-cost countries if that's what was needed (nothing wrong with providing jobs to people in less fortunate countries). But no, it looks like BP's commitment to solar power, while long-term, wasn't very strong.
This is only the final nail in BP Solar's coffin. They had already stopped most manufacturing during the financial crisis in early 2009, but now they won't even invest in solar projects and will be looking to sell their stakes in about 158 megawatts of existing projects.
Meanwhile, Total, another big European oil company, is investing in solar power...