SAN FRANCISCO—Spectrawatt Inc., the solar cell manufacturer that was originally spun off from Intel Corp. in 2008, has filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code, according to multiple reports.
On Tuesday, Middleton, N.Y.'s Times-Herald Record reported that Spectrawatt filed for bankruptcy last week, seeking court permission to auction off tens of millions of dollars worth of assets. The company blames its failure on vendor disputes and competitive pressure from companies that manufacturer solar cells in countries with higher subsidies and lower labor costs, according to the report.
In 2008, Intel said it was spinning off key assets of a solar startup business effort to form an independent company called SpectraWatt. Intel Capital, Intel's investment organization, led a $50 million investment round in SpectraWatt and was joined by Cogentrix Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Goldman Sachs Group Inc., PCG Clean Energy and Technology Fund and Solon AG.
A lot of steam here missing the larger point.
Low prices are not a bad thing at all for the industries and people that consider PV as an alternative. In fact, getting prices lower is the goal of the Feed In Tariffs and many of the government actions and programs. Yes, the real activity and muscle is coming from China without a doubt. Yes, there are distortions of subsidies and currency. But this fierce competition is driving down cost and advancing the whole industry along the learning curve.
Today Solyndra bites the dust. But it is not cause to celebrate Coal, Nukes, or Dick Cheney.
Lower prices mean it becomes more practical for more people.
European programmes are not "government subsidy" in the sense of using general taxation to pay people to fit solar panels, but instead a "feed-in tariff" which pays people to generate low-emissions electricity. In the UK we are paid around £0.43 per kilowatt hour to generate electricity using our own solar panels. The payment comes from a levy on high-emissions electricity which is paid by all electricity consumers. As Germany and Spain have succeeded in fitting a lot of solar panels they have cut back on the incentives to fit more, but the UK programme only started in April 2010.
The driving factors are: dwindling conventional fossil fuel supplies (the UK is now a net importer of oil and gas, where it was an exporter 10 years or less ago), worries about fossil fuel prices, and commitments on greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate science is imprecise as is any field that has to take into account the majority of the world's systems, however it is very clear that:
1) greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide trap heat in the atmosphere (otherwise the surface temperature would be around -20 centigrade, I believe)
2) increased concentrations increase the amount of heat trapped
3) more heat in the atmosphere means more weather in the sense that there will be more violent winds, more evaporation in hotter places, more precipitation etc.
The precise outcomes of this are as hard to state as the weather next week, but it is fairly clear that some places will become deserts, others suffer from reduced crop yields, others have severe flooding and storm damage.
How many hurricanes will be needed in New York before people start to think something is up?
I'd speculated in an earlier posting that solar cell start-ups are at risk of being passed by new companies that find a cheaper / more efficient technology. While that is always the case in technology, solar cell technology seems to be especially volatile at this time. How did the Intel spin-off technology compare with the latest developments?
I can see many other things at work here besides politicians although they are getting most of the blame, in most countries. Most of the current crop of elected leaders inherited an economic mess post or during the GFC. Looking at our PV cells, the country with the largest annual investment in renewable energy per capita terms is China. It is also the largest annual producer of photovoltaic cells; both in number of cells and capacity, with quantities increasing every year for the last several years. That same country also continues to hold its currency at exchange rates that are artificially lower than a "float" would put them. One result is that the price paid on the export market per unit of goods produced in China, irrespective of quality and irrespective of the costs of inputs into production will be pulled lower compared with goods of the same spec. produced in any other economy. If we take the "China Exchange" out of the equation what else is wrong with PV production as a business? Well, unlike Facebook, iPad, Twitter etc (all worthy products and services in their market) the role of PV cells in the economy and in life is poorly understood by average persons. They lie flat on a roof (not like a wind turbine farm) and if anyone notices them, they think its hot water heating. In fact, I would argue that the need for an efficient, reliable electricity supply grid is not understood clearly by many politicians, let alone by the people who vote. In many households, an understanding of electricity supply starts and ends at the wall outlet or perhaps goes as far as the meter box and the regular bill. Most people do not know that solar storms & sunspots can interfere with grid operation. These two issues work very strongly against a PV production industry in most countries except China. It is a nation well aware of how far it has to come; it can already make PV cells at lower input cost than anywhere else can in the world.
Yes we hear this from the "Greenies" all the time. But besides the failure of competitive R.O.I. (thats Return On Investment)there are "Hidden Costs" in Solar Photo-voltaics. Remember, you are using traditional power to manufacture Solar cells. There are caustic chemical environmental impact costs with Solar Cells that no "Greenie" has yet been able to assess (from what I have read)... So what is the REAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF A SOLAR CELL??? Listen, facts are facts. The Kyoto "accord" was group of studies bundled with a general statement of "concensus" (since when is science a democracy?) written by politicians...
There are hundreds if not thousands of REAL, career, earth and climate scientist who have serious doubts and direct contradictions with the converts to the church of global warming.
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