Clean Power Solar Panel Glut Good For Long Term Business

Published on February 15th, 2013 | by Joshua S Hill


Glut Of Solar Panels Is A Good Thing

February 15th, 2013 by  

There are any number of conspiracy theories and news stories looking at the oversupply of solar panels currently flooding the market, and a general negative view of the solar industry has followed.

Solar Panel Glut Good For Long Term BusinessHowever, Director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute and Howard Hughes Professor and Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science at Caltech Dr. Harry A. Atwater believes the current glut of solar panels is a good thing for the industry.

“There has never been a better time to go ‘long’ on innovative solar technology,” said Atwater.

“If we invest now, by the time the industry recovers from today’s oversupply crisis, very advanced innovations will have emerged that can fuel the next wave of solar technology. These will build on the momentum created by the current phase of the market and dramatically expand the usefulness and adoption of solar.”

Atwater shared his opinions at the VX 2013 Conference in Los Angeles, explaining how the market arrived where it is now and how it could be viewed as a good thing, in the long term.

The problem stems from the fact that the solar industry grew so fast and efficiently that it reached a worldwide module production capacity of 60 GW peak.

Sounds good, right?

Problem is, during 2012, there was only demand for 35 GW of modules, and 2013 is predicted to only require demand in the 40 GW range.

The industry is, therefore, “under water.” Some companies have gone bankrupt, while consumers are living the dream, encountering lower-than-ever prices.

“This period in the history of the solar market is like the ‘dotcom bubble’,” said Atwater. “During that era, there was a lot of financial and entrepreneurial pain, but vast amounts of infrastructure, market exposure and adoption occurred which catalyzed today’s dramatic growth in worldwide use of the Web. We believe the same is true of solar.”

Atwater believes that those companies who go long on solar now — by supporting the innovations currently underway — are going to benefit in the long run, even if they might sacrifice some short term success.

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I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

  • Otis11

    Yeah, the only hard part about this: Can some of the smaller, yet innovative companies weather the rough water ahead to see that “next wave”?

    • dynamo.joe

      It doesn’t really matter. If someone had an innovative tech and went bankrupt, do you really think GE or First Solar or some Chinese company wouldn’t say “hey, we can pick up their IP for a song”.

      • Otis11

        Oh yeah, the technology won’t get lost in all likelihood, but the company with it’s expertise that designed the innovation may disappear. Many times only the “essential” part of the team is hired in such cases, which may not include all those who truly made it possible.

        • Bob_Wallace

          A lot of the companies expected to fail are not innovators, but small Chinese startups who have neither cost or quality needed to carry them past the weed-out.

          It’s unlikely a small manufacturer who is barely in business has a large research division that is cooking up the next big thing.

          • Otis11

            Well you might actually be surprised. Many of the most innovative companies that I have seen are very small (<50 Engineers/Scientists).

            Most big companies go after guaranteed incremental improvements – the 1-2% better a year. While these absolutely do add up over time, they are hardly innovative.

            The true innovation tends to happen at smaller companies or research institutions. The last TRULY innovative large company that comes to mind is Xerox Parc, but when they crushed that innovation in favor of profits, they ended up losing both. Now I probably missed one or two since then, but I believe you get my drift. The large companies have a spark every now and then, but tend to favor small, guaranteed advancements over the more risky, but truly innovative.

  • Bob_Wallace

    It’s no longer the cost of the solar panels. Panels are being sold for a little over 50 cents per watt. And prices are expected to fall considerably over the next few years.

    It’s the rest of the system costs that need to be trimmed.

    Permitting costs are way too high. There’s no need for that.

    • JustSaying

      Yea, I like the Aussie approach to permitting. You pass the 6 simple question, then you don’t need to get a permit. That and getting the anti-PV out of the standard HOA legal docs. Since HOA meeting happen once a year, and nver have enough people to change the by-laws. You have to go door-door and have people sign a document saying thay want to allow PV. Which is a big pain, and a lot of time.

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