By: Adam Browning, Vote Solar Initiative
As we have been reading recently, the solar company Solyndra filed for bankruptcy, which media reports have depicted as the end of solar power in the U.S. This is B.S.
It’s like saying the internet died because my first explorer Netscape went out of business.
The amazing irony of it all is that Solyndra was the victim of a big success – the price of solar power has fallen rapidly, making more expensive technologies like theirs uncompetitive, but more importantly making solar power a real player in the U.S. energy economy.
Since October of 2008, the average price of solar modules has fallen from $4.20/W, to around $1.20-$1.50/W today. These are mind-boggling reductions. And these new prices are resulting in extraordinary market development. As of June, California utilities have signed over 8 GW of solar contracts…half of which are below the price of new natural gas generation. That’s right. Gigawatts of solar cheaper than the fossil fuel alternatives.
While I have no clue about Solyndra’s deals to get their loan, their technology is mainstream.
Solyndra was attempting to develop a PV panel that wouldn’t use silicon. Since 2004, Germany got into the solar game and boy did silicon supply get taken. Plus, there are only 7 plants worldwide tat manufacture silicon for PV panels. Talk about shortage!!
So, what do you think happened? The price of silicon went through the roof!!!
The cost was once $25/kg went to $450/kg.
Silicon manufacturers had the solar industry by the short you know what’s, and everyone scrambled for other options.
So what happened?
OK, believe it or not people but Silicon got cheap!!!
The manufacture of crystalline silicon panels got even cheaper.
All the innovation, market pressures, and government investment worked.
The price of going solar in the U.S. dropped 17% last year and another 11% in the first half of 2011.
Plus, the federal and state market-building policies have been instrumental to those gains.
What little policy support solar has received relative to its fossil counterparts is working as it should – to build scale, bring down costs and deliver strong economic returns on our nation’s investment. And today the solar power industry is the fastest growing industry in America.
The holy grail of those working in the field is to bring down costs. Solyndra had a reputed cost structure around $2/W. The fact that’s no longer competitive is a sign that solar is succeeding, and delivering on its promise faster and better than the brightest minds and the big bucks ever imagined.
Some suggested reading (we’ll update as we find helpful articles):