Today in Cleantech

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Yesterday was the anniversary of Solyndra’s bankruptcy, and GigaOM’s Katie Fehrenbacher looks back at the recipe that turned Solyndra into a political meme. A year later Republicans are still using the word as a proxy for corruption and the failure of the stimulus package with Paul Ryan mentioning it during his RNC speech. The irony for me is a comment that Chris Beitel, a VP at solar cell startup Silevo made this week. “If Solyndra had built their first pilot line in Asia and then moved into the 300 MW line in the U.S., then they would’ve survived,” Beitel said. Everyone assumes that Solyndra’s failure was a foregone conclusion but looking back I think that reaching economies of scale was actually the problem, and a correctable one (hindsight is 20/20). The key in solar is large scale production to reduce price per watt and a flexible, inexpensive labor force. As a DOE loan recipient, the latter, which would have involved building a plant in China, was impossible. But I’m not convinced that Solyndra’s overall business model was unsalvageable.

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