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Solyndra Bankruptcy Could Impact All Renewables

The federal government's rush to approve a loan guarantee for Solyndra, and the company's ensuing bankruptcy shouldn't be regarded as a sign that all renewable energy projects are risky investments.
By Rona Johnson | September 16, 2011

I guess we know now what happens when the government picks winners and losers and rushes to judgment. I’m sure you all have read about Solyndra LLC, a solar panel equipment manufacturer that has filed for bankruptcy and left U.S. taxpayers liable for more than $500 million in federal loans. All of the stories I have read so far point to the government for not doing its due diligence when it came to approving the company for the loan guarantee.

It’s a shame that it had to happen because it just makes the American people even more wary of our government and whether they than can be trusted to spend taxpayer’s money wisely. And, no doubt, skeptics will say that the renewable energy industry is too risky, which we in the biomass power and heat business know isn’t true.

People need to keep in mind that Solyndra was going to produce a new type of cylindrical solar photovoltaic panel. And there were some market forces, having to do with the price of polysilicon, a material commonly used in making solar panels that led to the company’s financial difficulties. When Solyndra first introduced its product it cost more to build than traditional solar panels, but the cost became more comparable because the equipment didn’t require the use of polysilicon, which was very expensive at the time. Then the price of polysilicon dropped and the company’s product was no longer economically viable. This was something that many investors, including the federal government couldn’t have foreseen.

Hopefully the government learns from its mistakes because the renewable energy industry is worth investing in and not all projects carry the same risks.