Solar Power Innovator Solyndra Files For Bankruptcy

Solar power tech innovator Solyndra has announced it will be filing for bankruptcy. 1,100 full time and temporary employees are being laid-off immediately, the company said in a press statement.

The company promoted an innovative solar power approach based off of modular lightweight rooftop panels composed of cylinders covered in thin-film PV units, under which the roof was painted white to increase reflectivity and ensure light got all sides of the cylinder. As such it was only suitable for flat-roof industrial applications.
Solyndra had opened a $700 million manufacturing facility, received half a billion dollars in loan guarantees from the Department of Energy, and was publicly touted by President Obama. Earlier this year Solyndra cancelled its public stock offering.

Solyndra's press statement says starkly,

Regulatory and policy uncertainty in recent months created significant near-term excess supply and price erosion. Raising incremental capital in this environment was not possible. This was an unexpected outcome and is most unfortunate.

As for that policy uncertainty, Solyndra doesn't single out uncertainty in the United States--though that would perhaps be warranted; renewable energy grows when there's steady policy promoting it and contracts in less certain times. The blame is spread more widely and thinly around,

The competitive challenge was exacerbated by the global oversupply of solar panels and a severe compression of prices that in part resulted from uncertainty in governmental incentive programs in Europe and the decline in credit markets that finance solar systems

Which is no doubt true, but as for why Solyndra is feeling that pinch more acutely than other solar companies, well, I'm not privy to all the financial details and therefore could only speculate on how much of the outward finger-pointing ought to be directed inward.

Commenting on the degree of support Solyndra, and other US renewable energy firms, get from the government, Phaedra Ellis Lamkins of Green For All (and sometimes TreeHugger contributor), said in a press statement:

Capitalism's survival of the fittest only works on a level playing field. Solyndra - like many other clean energy companies - are competing evenly in the United States, but on an extremely slanted field globally. Solyndra was facing, in particular, Chinese companies that received massive subsidies from the Chinese government. The investment our government made in Solyndra wasn't a hand-out; it was an attempt to help balance the playing field. But that attempt was one-tenth, one-twentieth what its Chinese competition saw. That Solyndra competed at all is remarkable and laudable. We can choose to compete in the global economy, or we can choose to import our solar panels - and our batteries, and our water, and everything else - from overseas.

Glenn Hurowitz, Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy, put it more pointedly, tweeting, "Let's not criticize China for providing generous subsidies to solar manufacturers, but instead ask why our government isn't doing the same."


h/t NBC Bay Area.

More on Solyndra
A New Shape For Solar Power? Modular Rooftop Thin-Film Solar PV Panels Could Revolutionize Market
Solyndra Gets $535 Million Loan Guarantee From Dept of Energy for New Solar Panel Facility

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