As the light dims: Solyndra’s days are over

Posted on 5 Sep 2011 by The Manufacturer

Solar panel manufacturer Solyndra is the latest US company to collapse after a huge fall in prices and stiff competition from China.

Even after the Obama administration lent $535m to the company in 2010 to help it avoid bankruptcy, Solyndra was unable to keep its head above water amid plummeting prices of solar panels.

Investors in the company include Sir Richard Branson, investment group Madrone Partners, Rob Walton of Walmart and Masdar – Abu Dhabi’s state-backed clean technology group. Total investment in the company stands at roughly $1bn, as well as the money invested by the US government.

Industry commentators have said they don’t expect Solyndra to be the last of its kind to die out. Production of solar panels has increased hugely over the past decade – since 2008 the price of solar panels per watt has fallen from $1.30 to $4 according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. American firm Evergreen Solar filed for bankruptcy last month, as did Intel spin-off Spectrawatt.

Subsidies played a crucial role in keeping manufacturers like Solyndra alive. Across the world, numerous governments have halted subsidies for solar panel manufacturers. In the UK, a tariff system meant to encourage the installation of solar panels was cancelled, due to it being ‘too expensive to the taxpayer’. Spain cut subsidies available in 2010 – Italy is scheduled to do the same. China’s ability to make everything for less money results in a sorry state of affairs for companies like Solyndra.

George Archer