Solyndra, the California-based solar-panel maker, recently filed for bankruptcy. This event was used by the media to announce the end of solar technology, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. The solar industry is thriving more than ever before.
The attention is understandable, as Solyndra received a $535M loan from the Department of Energy in 2009. In the scheme of loan guarantees, though, this only accounted for 1.2% of the total $38.6B loan guarantees issued by DOE (read more). And being the only of these companies to file for bankruptcy, the attention should not be focused on the energy-loan guarantee program. Solyndra remains the exception to the rule (read more).
With that being said, what happened to Solyndra? Simply put, solar is getting cheaper and cheaper. Specifically, silicon is getting less expensive. Companies, such as Solyndra, whose business models require a higher price, are unable to keep up with the competition (read more). When Solyndra began, silicon was the dominant raw material for PVs. As the solar market here and in Europe took off, there were silicon shortages, and it became expensive. As solar-grade silicon was never demanded before in such high quantities, the supply did not yet exist and prices went up (read more). Most solar companies invested their time and energy into alternative solar methods. Solyndra , among other companies such as Nanosolar, Miasole, HelioVolt, received millions of venture capital dollars to look for other non-silicon solar methods.
As one would expect, silicon prices have since tumbled. Therefore, Solyndra’s $2/Watt technology was unable to compete against $1/Watt silicon PV. In fact, the solar industry has reduced the cost of solar by 70% since 2009! This increase in competition and reduction in cost proves that solar is a growing market. It is more affordable than ever for consumers to invest in solar. “As of June, California utilities have signed over 8 GW of solar contracts…half of which are below the price of new natural gas generation. That’s right – “gigawatts of solar cheaper than the fossil fuel alternatives.” (Read more). While Solyndra closing is not a positive event in itself, it represents the growing market of solar power and the renewable energy field! Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date on Solyndra and other renewable energy news!