A general thread in the Oil Drum responses is that existing ground based solar energy solutions are good enough or will be good enough someday soon and this makes it unnecessary to explore risky alternatives. While this impression is common the unfortunate reality is that solar energy has a long way to go to achieve market competitiveness.
Even in economies that accept the reality of climate change there is a limited willingness to pay beyond market price for energy. The US which is generally skeptical on climate change still subsidizes alternate energy solutions, though somewhat erratically. There would be little or no alternative energy business in the US or elsewhere without these subsidies. Today’s political and economic climate does not bode well for the future of these subsidies.
Many industry projections are for the current dismally low electricity market share of solar (<< 1%) to actually fall over the coming decade as subsidies decline. The only reliable way to improve solar energy’s market share is deliver competitive market priced electricity. Many new PV based alternatives promise the magical market competitive $1.00/Wp total capital cost, but none are remotely close to delivering. This failure rightly creates skepticism for any new venture, even if the basis for the claim is market competitive electricity using today’s $3.00/Wp technology as in the case of StratoSolar.