Fremont, California-based Solyndra has just completed its latest French solar installation to date on a warehouse roof near Toulouse, PV Tech is reporting. The huge array of more than 7,080 Solyndra panels will generate approximately 1,360 megawatt hours a year. It is the largest Solyndra system in France and one of the largest worldwide.
The 1.2 MW warehouse roof array was completed by a French Solyndra installation partner Nazca, on the roof of a warehouse owned by Port de Barcelona, one of the main commercial transport and distribution arteries in the Mediterranean area.
Back at home, Solyndra is under heavy criticism for receiving support from the Obama administration in 2009 and yet subsequently having to cut back on its employee numbers (by between 20 and 40, out of 1,000) which it announced earlier this month.
The company made sense as an investment in US green tech at the time. Solyndra manufactures a completely unique cylindrical solar panel that can convert reflected light from all angles when installed on flat white building roofs. Their competitive advantage was the great ease of installation: about as easy as just unfolding a series of card tables.
But the panels are made of thin film; copper-indium-gallium-deselinide. This new kind of solar panel material used to be cheaper than traditional silicon solar. So, like Nanosolar and other California thin film start ups, Solyndra looked like a sure green tech bet for government support. As part of the Recovery Act stimulus bill, the Obama administration offered a loan guarantee to Solyndra in 2009 – which attracted a billion in private VC funding for Solyndra – even after the Great Recession,
However, the US government got in too late.
As a result of the EU signing Kyoto in 1997, requiring that they reduce carbon emissions with cap and trade starting in 2005, Spain and Germany had offered subsidies that have spurred such a run on solar that it created a glut. European innovation has outperformed US innovation. As a result, traditional solar prices have dropped so much worldwide that silicon solar is now cheaper than thin film.
Solyndra’s installation costs are lower, and the panels do not need to have roof penetration, but the panels are now more expensive than silicon solar which is now flirting with $1 a watt. When you include installation costs, they are competitive with silicon panels that are significantly more labor-intensive on the roof.
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