The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

Solyndra's Exit: China Not To Blame

The epitaph for Solyndra is significant because of what was not a factor in their demise. It was certainly not for a lack of trying. But more importantly, it was not because of Chinese competition or a lack of U.S. government support.

Chinese solar panels are 10-20 percent less expensive than U.S.-made panels; but by some estimates, Solyndra's panels were 100 percent more. It's a mistake to blame Solyndra's problems on our lack of manufacturing commitment or relatively higher labor costs compared to China. Solar panels are commodities being sold on the worldwide market on a $/watt basis much as aluminum is sold on a $/kg basis. It is crystal clear that cheap and easy to install solar panels are exactly what the U.S. needs to reduce our energy costs and create installation jobs.

For five years or more, the U.S. government was providing support for solar manufacturing in the U.S.  The DOE Loan Guarantee program provided critical funding for Solyndra's manufacturing growth, supported by over $1 billion in private capital. Unfortunately, both these private investors and the DOE made a couple of bets on Solyndra that didn't pan out.

The first bad bet was that refined silicon, the feedstock for the solar panel industry, would stay expensive. Solyndra invented a solar panel that didn't use expensive silicon. Unfortunately for Solyndra, and fortunately for all the silicon solar panel manufacturers and customers, silicon has gotten very cheap over the past few years. So, the problem that Solyndra solved: expensive silicon disappeared.

The second bad bet was that Solyndra's flat roof installation technology would make up for their relatively expensive panels. Solyndra did indeed see big savings on flat roof installations, but the rest of the industry did not stand still. Other commercial flat roof products are on the market (full disclosure, Westinghouse Solar has an inexpensive and easy to install flat roof solar panel product) with similar benefits at much lower costs to Solyndra.

Management and investors finally pulled the plug when two things became brutally apparent. First, that silicon wasn't going to get expensive again. And second, Solyndra's installation advantage couldn't overcome similar products that were on the market at much lower prices. 

It was a great attempt at solving a big problem: reducing solar installation costs. I hope the U.S. Government is made whole on their DOE loan guarantee (which, notably was initiated during the Bush administration). I hope we don't bash overseas manufacturers for making commodity solar panels cheaper than we can in the U.S.; after all, we all want inexpensive solar panels. I hope that Solyndra technology and employees continue to thrive in the emerging clean technology industry which they helped to pioneer.

Untitled Document

RELATED ARTICLES

Why the Future of the Yieldco Is at Risk

Haresh Patel In the past two years, the proliferation of YieldCos, and their ability to open new sources of capital for renewable energy projects, has captured the attention of the energy industry. While a YieldCo’s potential to catalyz...

Schneider Electric and Saft Partner on Corsican Solar-Energy Storage Project

Andrew Burger Lithium-ion batteries will be used to store PV energy produced by two new solar energy installations and dispatch it to the grid on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. Supplied by Saft, each 1-MWh advanced battery s...

Listen Up: Vampires Sucking Power from your House

The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World Here’s a nightmare for you: at night, when you’re asleep and you think things are quiet, there are vampires sucking power out of your house and increasing your electric bill. The fact of the matter is that every plugged in ...
Barry Cinnamon is a long-time advocate of renewable energy and is a widely recognized solar power expert. He is the host of the weekly Energy Show on KLIV radio and Renewable Energy World. Based on decades of hands-on installation experience, M...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 4
1507REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Grid-connected and Off-grid Photovoltaics

This training covers all aspects of planning, installation, maintenance,...

2015 Intersolar-South America

Canadian Solar will be exhibiting @ Intersolar-South America. Stop by an...

2015 Green Energy Expo

Stop by and visit Canadian Solar at the Green Energy Expo in Mexico City!

COMPANY BLOGS

Fort Collins Residents Help City Reach Climate Targets While Saving...

Fort Collins resident Norman Illsley, 90, is making a statement. He purc...

6 Tips For Finding Great Leads

Embrace and cultivate all of the empowering qualities of a sa...

Compression: That’s What It's All About

With Intersolar already 2 weeks behind us (how did that happen...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS