Power in Flux
  • Bad News for the solar panel industry

    According to a long article in my newspaper today "contributed to" by the Washington Post, the solar panel industry in the US is having a tough time. It seems that while US startup companies in the US were attempting to find venture capital and other financing and then building their pilot manufacturing plants, the Chinese have been investing huge sums of cheap government money into their industry and building large solar panel plants at a rapid pace. This year they have driven down the price of solar panels by 40% and have grabbed market share far more quickly than anyone anticipated.

    In the case of one manufacturer, Solyndra, located in Fremont, CA, they invested $1 billion dollars from investors and received another $535 million loan guarantee for the company's new robot-run, 300,000 sf solar panel factory, known as Fab 2. Unfortunately, while they were building the plant, just one factory in Shanghai, JA Solar, by the end of the year, will have the capacity to produce 1.8 gigawatts of panels each year. They have increased their employees from 4000 last year to 11,000 this year. By comparison, Solyndra expects to have a total production capacity of 300 MW by the end of 2011. This trend is driving away financiers from investing in new US factories and the article says that the future of the US solar industry is dimming.

    In one case, another startup, Innovalight, located in Silicon Valley, has abandoned solar module manufacturing altogether. The company had developed what it calls a silicon ink, which increases a solar cell's efficiency when it is printed on a standard silicon wafer. After installing a 10 MW production line in late 2008, Innovalight decided that, rather than compete with the Chinese, they would license the patented ink technology to them and avoid having to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to build a factory of their own. None of this sounds like good news to me.

    On a positive note (I think), the US Army is installing solar cells on their forward bases in Afghanistan to cut down on the use of fuel to power their generators. This has resulted because they are paying between $400 and $500 per barrel for fuel and guarding fuel convoys is resulting in heavy troop casualties, according to a news report last night.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Bad News for the solar panel industry started by Richard230 View original post
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