Solyndra has been the most hyped startup in the crowded Solar Energy field .It is not due to a lack of competition,another thin film player Nanosolar has been in the news with heavyweights like Google,Carlye and EDF backing it.Then there are other startups like eSolar, Brightsource Energy,Miasole which promise to drastically improve the adoption of solar energy.But Solyndra has been singularly successful in marketing itself as the solar startup to watch out for, filing a prospectus do an IPO in 2010.It has received more than a Billion Dollars in Equity funding from its PE investors and Millions of Dollars in Loan Guarantees from the US government through Department of Energy (DOE).These huge amount of dollars are going to be a huge waste IMHO
Solyndra’s Scale is too Small
Solyndra’s Capacity will be 85 MW by end 2010 and 500 MW by end 2013 .Compare this to the Gigawatt scale capacity being built up by many of the Chinese,European ,Japanese and Taiwanese players in 2010 itself.By 2013 , Solyndra will not even rank in the top 20 of world’s top suppliers . Leading Companies like Trina Solar , First Solar ,LDK will already have a capacity of more than 2 GW by 2011
Solyndra’s capex per Watt is too high
Solyndra’s 500 MW plant will require $1.38 billion to be built according to its S-1 filing .This works out to be more than $2.5/watt ,compare this to $1/watt capex required by First Solar to build a similar plant.Even crystalline solar plants which have much higher efficiency require almost half the capex dollars to build a similar size capacity
Solyndra’s Huge Accumulated Losses
Solyndra has accumulated more than$500 million in deficit making even its Auditor PWC has questioned its survival as a Going Concern
Solyndra’s products are not Cost Competetive
Solyndra’s S-1 filing with the SEC shows that its cost structure is too high compared to the mainstream crystalline solar energy technology.Its costs are also much more than the Cadmium Tellerium (Cd-Te) technology used by solar energy market leader First Solar . Solyndra’s cost per watt is currently more than $4/watt ,compare that to Trina Solar which has a cost per watt of $1.1/watt at much higher efficiencies.It would take a major miracle to reduce this vast cost gap.
US solar energy policies are misguided
Existing US Solar companies with state of the art technology like Evergreen Solar,Energy Conversion Devices and Sunpower are barely surviving due to lack of US govt support while President Obama is visiting a fledgling startup.Evergreen Solar lamented the lack of US govt support as it moved its manufacturing operations lock stock and barrel to China.Sunpower is constructing its next big Fab in Malaysia in partnership with AUO while Energy Conversion Devices is running at 50% utilization .Its questionable why DOE is giving a $535 million loan to Solyndra and not to these companies with proven technologies and plants.Note China is giving huge subsidies to its solar companies in the form of billion dollar credit lines,electricity subsidies and even taking equity stakes.These incentives have made the China capture 50% of the world market from less than 5% in 2005.US needs to show similar commitment to its solar companies to regain its lost leadership in the clean energy race.