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Sat Feb 25, 2012, 03:00 PM

Why Did Leading Solar Panel Maker Solyndra Fail? [View all]


HealthNewsDigest.com) - Solyndra was a California-based maker of thin-film solar cells affixed to cylindrical panels that could deliver more energy than conventional flat photovoltaic panels. The company’s novel system mounted these flexible cells, made of copper, indium, gallium and diselenide (so-called CIGS), onto cylindrical tubes where they could absorb energy from any direction, including from indirect and reflected light.


What caused this shooting star of alternative energy to burn out so spectacularly after just six years in business and such a large investment? Part of what made Solyndra’s technology so promising was its low cost compared to traditional photovoltaic panels that relied on once costlier silicon. “When Solyndra launched, processed silicon was selling at historic highs, which made CIGS a cheaper option,” reports Rachel Swaby in Wired Magazine. “But silicon producers overreacted to the price run-up and flooded the market.” The result was that silicon prices dropped 90 percent, eliminating CIGS’ initial price advantage.

Another problem for Solyndra was the falling price of natural gas—the cleanest of the readily available fossil fuels—as extractors implemented new technologies including horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to get at formerly inaccessible domestic reserves in shale rock. In 2001 shale gas accounted for two percent of U.S. natural gas output, while today that number is closer to 30 percent. The result of this increased supply is that the price of natural gas has fallen by some 77 percent since 2008, meaning utilities can produce electricity from it much cheaper as well. “Renewables simply can’t compete,” adds Swaby.

The final blow to Solyndra was China’s creation of a $30 billion credit line for its nascent solar industry. “The result: Chinese firms went from making just six percent of the world’s solar cells in 2005 to manufacturing more than half of them today,” says Swaby. U.S. market share is now just seven percent.


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Reply Why Did Leading Solar Panel Maker Solyndra Fail? [View all]
jpak Feb 2012 OP
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bananas Feb 2012 #17
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saras Feb 2012 #2
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