where to begin...
The French nuke system was paid for with a huge subsidy pushed on the backs of the French taxpayer, and contrary to popular opinion in some quarters doesn't really work very well for them at all. During sustained high air conditioning load conditions they run out of cooling capacity and have to either get a waiver to allow them cook all the fish in the rivers, or import power from Spain & Italy (if they have any spare capacity to trade) at peak-prices. In order to avoid falling short for the AM demand ramp they have to run them all night in power-dumping mode. Fortunately for them they can usually sell off-peak power to Spain & Italy (usually at a financial loss) otherwise something like half the power would have to be sent out the cooling systems. While the net balance of megawatt hours traded to their neighbors is in France's favor, the balance of cash value of those megawatts traded is not. They sell at loss during off-peak just to keep revenue for those plants they need to keep going all night non-zero, and buy only peak-power back.
The French system was pitched to the taxpayer back in the 1970s and early 1980s as a means of reducing oil imports, despite the fact that oil was never a big player on electricity production in France, and their transportation sector was then and is now largely fossil-fired. Wherever French nuclear designs have been exported, the contract price is high, and even then no project to date has come in on-budget. They've gotten away with it in France, but it's not exactly a model of efficient or economic grid operation, rather it's a model of a government picking a winner and sticking by it even when proven to be a loser. Were it not for the huge capital investment already put up they'd be better off decommissioning 30-50% of them off and doing something more flexible. France more than any other country needs electric cars and smart-chargers, just to have a load for buffer their copious excess off-peak and baseload power of their overbuilt nuke fleet, but it will still be more expensive electricity than PV circa 2020.
And GE surely did TOO put the plant on the beach in Japan, who are you kidding? If GE engineers had issues with where & how the customer wanted to configure and site the equipment, it didn't stop them from commissioning the plant, eh? Nukes aren't packed up in a box and dropped on the pier with a "some assembly required" instruction packet. If site plans were not consistent with GE's best-practices guides, they didn't let it get in the way of the sale. Japanese law may leave them largely off the hook, but it's a stretch to say that any egregious oversights were solely on the part of the Japanese operators.
And SFAIK no automotive engineers from Subaru were involved in the design or siting of the Fukushima plant.)
I have no idea as to whether Solyndra had snow-country field testing of their designs or not, but since they're not insulated evacuated tubes I'd be surprised if they had a long snow-melt situation the way some thermal-tube panels can. As long as their tubes were mounted on racks taller than the anticipated snow depths the sides of the tubes would shed snow pretty readily, and the solar gain would then raise the temp of the glass to clear the rest. I was never convinced that they could build their panels sufficiently cheaply that their cheap racking system would make them viable, but they had a lot of people convinced that it could work when silicon flat panels were over $6 per peak-watt. At $3 peak-watt and falling there's simply no way. There is definitely an industry shake-out in progress as growth in PV soars at the lower price point. On my daily commute (in a snowier climate than WI) I pass something like a dozen small scale solar installations, both PV and thermal- snow burial is not a problem- the only system than hangs onto snow for more than 24 hours after the sun returns is the evacuated tube thermal system on the roof of the Aka Bistro in Lincoln MA. In 3 days it's usually clear, even if the temps stay sub-20F.
All generating power needs backup, including (especially?) nukes, which need to be periodically shut down for days or weeks on end for maintenance or refueling. With solar the regional output is predictable with the weather, and the degree of grid-hardening something that can be calculated. The wintertime and nighttime reduction in output in cold places can be nicely offset by the relatively increases in output of micro-cogenerators as part of the grid-mix even without smart-grids. But to achieve a very high level requires smarter systems to be sure. Over wider regions wind power functions remarkably well as base generators, and the average wind power output is predictable days in advance by weather. Unlike large centralized power systems, taking small scale local generation offline for repair has no impact on the grid operation as a whole- fixing a 1-5kwh home-scale cogenerator does not need to be scheduled with the grid operator any more than testing a 5 ton air conditioning compressor does.
Oversized desert development of solar power are hampered by grid infrastructure costs and loss of efficiency of PV at high temps. It's cheaper & more efficient to use solar-thermal boilers as the heat source for more conventional turbines in the desert than PV, but if you need to build a huge transmission line to hook it up the point becomes moot. Maybe Las Vegas and Phoenix could get a substantial amount of power that way, but the costs of the infrastructure for shipping that power to LA & Orange county are ridiculous, especially compared to how cheap it is to do on-site PV nearer those loads. And smartening up the local grids to better balance capacity to load and going aggressively after efficiency are still far more cost effective than any new source generation. The efficiency well is deep & cheap- too cheap to be able to rationalize building a whole new fleet of nukes.