The analysis should have been simple for Solyndra, the DOE and everybody here forward... How can you blow a half a billion dollars when given:
Standard Solar PV Panels = $2500 per kilowatt
Solyndra Solar PV Panels = $6000 per kilowatt
The long term analysis of "payback", that point at which the cost of a standard solar kW unit of panels supplying all that "free" power" long enough that your cost of energy = about 12 cents per killowat hour, paying for the initial investment is about 10 to 18 years with standard solar.
So a Solyndra panel would "payback in 24 to 34 years".. Nobody knows if they would even last that long... The material studies are theoretical at least and based on accelerated environmental testing at best. Talk to battery companies about their predictive powers when it comes to end of life...
The moment the cost per Solyndra Solar Kw got a penny higher than the standard tech Kw, alarms should have been going of in everybody's head and big RED LETTERS should have been showing up on spreadsheets.
Bottom line... Electric Utility Power is a commodity item not a vanity item.. Except in special cases (like a PV powered Oil Well) the actual rate of return on PV energy does yet not pay for itself at 13 to 18% efficiency. Maybe it will at 45%...
J-allen, very good points about cadmium telluride. I notice that many people in the thin-film industry outside solar panels have been touting the use of lead-free perovskites and similar RoHS-compliant materials. It would be good if green energy companies emphasize the green nature of the entire manufacturing process - which includes addressing the waste concerns of an old panel, just as assuredly as nuclear must include the waste.
cvandewater, that was precisely why I made the point about China virtually owning the PV panel market. There are only rare instances where a company outside Asia can show manufacturing advantages. But that does not give Chinese companies a guaranteed market either, as SunTech's recent stumbles show. The alternative-energy market is demonstrating growing pains worldwide.
Most new technologies have had a history of many companies entering the market with many of them failing or being absorbed or merged. Consider automobiles and aircraft in the early 20th century, also radio and TV manufacturers.
In the case of solar, there is a good reason for public subsidy , given the externalities of fossil fuel combustion. These cost the public in many direct and indirect ways.
As foir First Solar, their product has a special problem resulting from the cadmium telluride active material. Years from now when the panels are discarded, they will very likely end up busted in a dump. We conducted a series of experiments where we put broken samples of CdTe PV panels in aqueous solutions with pH values of 7 (distilled water), 6, 5, 4, and 3. for about 4 months.
In all but the distilled water, the cadmium leached out into solution and for pH values of 5 and below virtually ALL the cadmium went into solution. Given the toxicity of Cd and the tons of panels that will end up in dumps, that is a serious threat to groundwater.
The manufacturers have promised to collect the dead panels in 25 or 30 years and reclaim the cadmium, but the funding for this is far from sufficient and who knows what will happen between now and then?
Customers and regulatory agencies are getting wise to the CdTe problem and turning to other less poisonous kinds of panels.
I think the article (and its title) are exemplary of a focus on USA & the west alone. When I look how the Solar manufacturing industry here in India and in China are exploding (without much subsidy, but with encouragements like SEZ and low laber cost) then I think you can understand why I read the title as:
"Solyndra seeds doubts about Photovoltaic manufacturability... in USA."
I have no doubt of the strong flow of PV panels from India and China where there is a decent ROI for the systems installed with these (low cost) panels, so there is no doubt about viability, even *without* local subsidies. Just allow feed-in tarif at the mid day price level and you will see how the ROI period shrinks to make the PV industry a success, just that manufacturing will be done elsewhere, so we know where we need to focus to be successful!
TJ, I'm personally not a huge fan of large centralized nuke or coal plants, but I think you have identified the source of the problem for decentralized point sources, and it's one T. Boone Pickens referred to when giving up on his wind farms. The power grid in this country is antiquated, and the DOE's funding of smart grid software only solves half the problem. The physical transmission lines and their support facilities need to be restructured and prepared for an underlying smart grid, and where wiill the capital investment come from for that? Intriguing questions, all.
A colleague and I were talking about power companies and their sources, and about point solutions. I was arguing strongly that we needed a LOT more nuclear plants in this country; he said power companies needed diverse sources.
I don't think either of us is wrong.
I would not want to be one of a power company's diverse alternative sources; wind farms in Washington State were shafted this summer when they were asked to shut down because there was too much hydro power available. The investment to plant a wind farm is too great for this type of "request". The power company should have been selling the excess to other states.
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