You might have heard or read about it : Solyndra, one of the largest solar companies in the United States – it received half a billion in federal loans – has filed for bankruptcy. It has laid off 1,100 people…
From there, you might be tempted to say that the US solar industry is going down. This is exactly the opposite as several factors are proving. 1. To Climate Progress solar is the “fastest growing industry in America” ;
2. To GreenTech Solar, the United States exported for nearly two billion USD of solar products in 2009 alone ; 3. TreeHugger noted that the industry is employing 100,000 people and will continue to hire.
Solyndra is the exception that confirm the rule.
GreenTech Solar has an excellent post on the very structural internal reasons why the company failed :
Years ago, one of Solyndra’s founders and a co-inventor of the original design spoke with me about the firm’s technology. That person had already realized that the design was flawed from a commercial standpoint and let me know that the packaging requirements and costs would prevent the Solyndra product from ever being competitive.
(Within the Board of the company) there’s not a single utility executive or a person from the power industry amongst this gang of 14 men. It’s a collection of lawyers, VCs and a few semiconductor and networking veterans. Not one person from the industry they are selling into or someone with operational experience in the solar business.
Additionally, David Roberts at Grist mentions the various external factors that might have aggravated the situation.
But we should remember one thing : solar works ! To exemplify my point of view I would like to quote some extracts of the Climate Progress article :
The U.S. solar industry grew 102% last year and is on track to grow another 100% this year. What other industry doubled its growth during one of the worst economic periods in our history?
(…) Since 2008, average PV prices have fallen 80%. And with innovative approaches to installation, the total installed cost of installations have fallen substantially as well.
To conclude, cleantech works. Let us keep on embracing tomorrow’s energy sources. This will create millions of green jobs and solve the energy / climate equation. (it’s not as if we had an alternative anyway…)