There are legitimate breakthroughs. And everyone involved in covering solar technology wishes for more.
But extraordinary claims should still require extraordinary proof.
What brings this to mind is HyperSolar, a company based in Santa Barbara that wants to fit existing solar panels with thin-film photonics that will concentrate solar wavelengths and make the panels more efficient.
Well, they’ve got a prototype.
Before issuing their press release, the company pre-briefed blogger Karl Burkart of Mother Nature News. Burkart went with it February 9. He used a picture given him by the company (part of it is to the right), wrote glowing-and-green about its theoretical promise, and had his post picked up by Forbes five days later, verbatim.
A day after the Forbes story hit the press release went out , after which millions of shares were traded, with a pop of a few cents per share. It was a “nice breakout” that drew the attention of penny stock gurus.
Before joining REW I wrote about medical technology, and I learned in covering that beat about how the game proceeds. Theories are followed by a first-stage trial, which may get a lot of publicity, and a second stage trial, which draws great investor interest.
Most of these solutions, however, fail to perform. Either there are side effects, or the results in a broad cross-section of people are not what was first claimed. Most research studies, it turns out, are wrong.
The same is going to be true in solar energy. A lot of breakthroughs aren’t going to prove out. A prototype is not a market solution.
After some years, after many millions in investment, HyperSolar might have a product. The dream is that you can lay their sheets on existing solar installations and instantly increase output by up to 300%.
I don’t think that will happen. But something really good may come of this, maybe in 2013, maybe in 2015. A product might emerge.
Meanwhile Tim Young is selling a lot of stock. If this idea is so good why isn’t he backed by big venture capitalists? Why is he on the public market?
Because this is a long shot. Because he just has a prototype. He hasn’t proven he can even manufacture this thing, we don’t know his materials and labor cost, we don’t know if it can scale. There’s a lot we don’t know.
All of us covering this space need to remember that. Breakthroughs are great. Breakthroughs are coming.
But claims of breakthroughs aren’t solutions.