First Solyndra, then Beacon Power Corp.Both alternative energy companies declared bankruptcy this year after receiving millions in federal job stimulus dollars. It’s just what the United States does not need right now, says nuclear scientist Michael T. Gamble, an alternative energy researcher and investment-banking analyst.
The public backlash to ill-spent tax dollars could hurt a vital emerging industry – one that is very much key to future U.S. jobs.
“Cheap energy would enable little Silicon Valley businesses to develop phenomenal things because they’re not hampered by the cost of doing business,” says Gamble, a former scientist at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico and author of Zeroscape (www.zeroscape-thebook.com), a high-tech thriller. “Work with certain technologies, like high-energy lasers, requires large amounts of energy. A little photonics companies will be a future Apple.”
Apple Inc., he notes, had 46,600 full-time employees in September 2010, up a third from the previous year. That was job growth during the throes of economic recession.
Gamble says the public perception of the alternative energy industry as a worthy recipient of taxpayer dollars may be tainted by what were essentially business failures exacerbated by the falling cost of solar-grade silicon. And, perhaps, poor choices for Energy Department loan guarantees.
“Solyndra was never even close to manufacturing cost-effective, competitive solar panels,” he says. “Their cost was $3 to $6 per watt.”
But there are companies, and even government research, worth investing in, Gamble says.
Source: Dr. Gamble is a former staff member of the physics division of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he researched directed-energy devices such as terawatt laser systems. He is a former vice president of Manufacturing Technology for Nanovation Technologies, Inc., and a founding partner of Fidelys, LLC, a California investment banking and corporate advisory firm. Gamble holds degrees in nuclear and mechanical engineering, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.