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Can US Solar Panel Makers Survive?

The pending failure of Solyndra is a great example of why a unified direction is so important.  Solydra manufactures a very high quality solar panel.  By all accounts it is thinner, lighter, produces more power per square foot and uses less resources to create than solar panels made in China. 

Solyndra Round Solar Panels

Solyndra - Who Failed Who?

 

Solyndra makes a unique type of solar panel that look like tubes.  In theory these panels can get more energy out of the sun because they can even absorb reflected energy.  Thin film solar in general is a better solution.  The US Government even added loan guarantees of over $500 million to just start the solar economy.

So What Happened?

The answer is simple, the feds had one plan and everyone else had another when it came to going solar.  The problem was Solyndra wasn’t cost effective when compared to Chinese systems.  The lower output of the cheaper Chinese solar panels was offset by the much lower cost.

When you add it the rebates and tax benefits which in many cases were that same regardless of how expensive you panels were, the Chinese panels where the clear winner.

If you are going to bias a system, you have to make sure the entire system is biased in the same direction.  When the state of California gives a fixed rebate for buying solar panels, which panels make the most sense?  The cheaper ones of course.

I don’t think it is nationalist to say that if we want to build a better technology, we should give consumers better incentives to use that technology shouldn’t we?  The rebate and incentive programs were directly counterproductive to the intent of the original federal loan guarantees. 

This isn’t to say that Solyndra would have made it, but it is to say that if we are going to give tax breaks for buying something, we should give a better break to those things we are already paying for so we as a country don’t have to pay more.  If we get stuck with the $500 million plus tab for Solyndra going into bankruptcy, I think we will find the rebates and tax breaks just helped the Chinese so we really paid twice.

There is no way for many of the US Solar Panel makers to survive if the government on all levels continue the way they are.

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