Gee $535 Billion of our (U.S. Taxpayer)money down the drain ... and another 1,000 people out of work. Perhaps they should have perfected the technology and manufacturing process and gotten some customers before they ramped up and burned through all that money.
If solar is the "Way to Go" then it needs to stand on its own and not require subsides. I question whether the fed government EVER invests properly or if it is politically based selections. I am troubled by the loss of 1000 jobs, and wondering if the business plan ever made sense for this company (or if the Taxpayers got taken for another ride)?
There is little evidence to support the "absolute" statements in this article: "The company's problems do not reflect on the potential of its emerging copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) technology or thin film approaches" and "There's nothing fundamentally wrong with CIGs or thin-film technologies". That's the kind of stuff we get from investors and stock promoters, looking to prop up their holdings at the front window as they try to bail out via the back door! Yes, call me cynical....
I'd say the fact they couldn't compete with less-glamorous existing approaches says there may be drawbacks to the technology, or the way this technology serves the market. At the least, these statements needs some qualification or questioning. It's often the case that an older, more-mature approach is easier to make, better suited, better understood, cheaper, or better fits the needs of the users (in this case, installers), and the new approach just doesn;t offer enough of an advantage, when you put all the pieces together.
There is nothing wrong with the technologies; yet, it can't compete with $1.20 per Watt solar panel manufactured in China. Mints said "This is not healthy for the industry because profit margins are just too low; CIGS is very hard to manufacture—it's complex and there's no real standardization for it yet."
Cost ultimately is the driver of getting the market. A government subsidized will drive the price down. Maybe, that's the reason Chinese made Solar panel can be sold in lower cost. Yet, sooner or later, Chinese government will cut the subsidiary off and the companies have to be able to sustain its operation with the revenue.
It is sad to see a clean tech company going down. I hope the Chapter 11 will just help the company to get out of trouble and re-organize itself to compete in the market. We need better energy.
There is much wisdom hiding in your last paragraph.
It reminds of the situation in the late 80s. A friend working for a semi equipment company told me that they had big orders from about 20 companies in Southeast Asia many with government backing. Seems their business plans were to capture 20% of the fab market. Having advanced math skills, he calculated that 20%20% was 400% of the market. Shortly after that, the Semi Equipment market (and a lot of the world) ran into big problems. I am wondering if the CIGS startups are actually unfortunately playing the same game, but with two slight variants. 1) The worldwide market for CIGS at CIGS's price-point is a lot smaller than they believe. 2) Everybody is funding CIGS (and the rest of solar) in order to create jobs AS THE PRIMARY MOTIVATION. With China sitting down at this poker table with a whole lot more chips (pun intended), it seems likely most other players will go bankrupt before we find out if there is a real market. (That is, solar gets to cost-competitive.) An interesting point for me is GE bought a solar company, CIGS-based I think, a few months back. Since they might be considered more interested in making money that creating jobs, it might be a good indicator of whether this is going to fly. I thought Intel bailing on SpectraWatt was a fairly strong bad sign, given that they also like to make money.
But, SpectraWatt, I think, was standard solar and Intel may have followed one of their early rules: If you cannot be #1 or #2 in a market, bail. Many reasons for this at Intel, but biggest is that #1 and #2 get economies of scale and #3... have crummy profit margins at best.
The article did mention that China may get 60% market share...
If memory serves, the federal government was a major financeer of the early semiconductor and FPD industries. I admit that solar technology has been around for several decades and can hardly claim to be an "early" technology. But government investment in solar has been very minimal until very recnetly, and the total amount of investment pales in comparison to the subsidies (in the form of tax breaks) that the oil industry - among the most profitable - has taken in over the years.
Just went to the Oregon Solar site and ran some numbers. (All of these ignore Time-Cost-of_Money)
1) Without subsidy, installation of Solar appears to have a 48 year payback period.
2) With standard federal, state and local utility subsidies, payback is about 8 years.
WHICH makes it very interesting. Especially if you think utility-based energy will cost more...
3) With a special program that was available here every six months, payback would be about 3 years.
This program involved signing up for a limited number of slots starting at 8:00 AM. Slots were gone in about 10 minutes. They are now revising the program.
Perhaps, the interesting points are:
a)Installed cost of solar is still way outside reasonable.
b)Improving those costs by a factor of 6 gets us to a market that at least some people will consider. (My guess is that this is larger than the Prius market, but economy is bad enough to distort my guess.)
c)Improving by a factor of 2 or 3 makes it a no-brainer.
BTW: Oregon gets about 90% of the incident solar energy that Los Angeles does. For fun: So if Moore's Law applies, solar becomes cost-effective in Oregon about 0.3 of a year after it does in LaLa Land.
BTW: I do not think Moore's Law applies to installed cost for standard solar. Way too much stuff ain't silicon. Maybe THE LAW applies to CIGS (and things like ink-jet printed ...). Assuming Rare Earths (did someone mention China...) do not set a cost floor below the part that can be shrunk via silicon savings.
This is just like the Chinese cornering the rare earth metals market. Undercut the competition and drive them out of the market, then raise the price or restrict access. They have the Chinese government to back them as long as necessary to get everyone else trying to make a profit out of the business. Then they can charge the real prices they want. Its a matter of who can outlast whom. In this case, deep pockets alsways win.
$535 Billion of our (U.S. Taxpayer) money with another failed Obama-sponsored pet-project. Wake up America! If solar were a viable energy source it wouldn't need subsidy. I wonder if Obama will apologize for his optimistic remarks he made at the plant's opening.