I previously covered the implosion of solar panel maker Solyndra, the unfortunate company that went bankrupt in August despite having received over $500 million in loan guarantees from the Obama administration. At the time, I asserted that the real problem with solar energy is in trying to force it to do something it is not capable of doing: namely, simply replacing oil, coal and gas and allowing business as usual to continue as if nothing has changed.
Now on top of the Solyndra debacle comes word that America’s leading solar panel manufacturer is also in trouble. Here is Renewable Energy World.com with the details:
What's going on at First Solar? The company, a pillar of the solar industry, on Tuesday announced what seemed an abrupt departure of its CEO, Robert Gillette, and the return of its former chief executive, Mike Ahearn, during a time when the company and the rest of the industry are dealing with a market marked by an oversupply of solar panels and plummeting prices.Hmmm…that doesn’t sound too positive. So what’s the problem?
First Solar’s shares plummeted 26 percent to reach $43.06 per share near Tuesday's closing.
But 2011 so far is turning out to be an awful year for First Solar and the industry overall. The falling incentives in Germany, Italy and France — and the delay by project developers to complete projects — have led to several gigawatts of solar panel inventories industrywide and crashing prices. First Solar has experienced huge drops in earnings this year. Gillette told investors in August that there should be a rebound in the second half of 2011.So lessee now, rising inventories and crashing prices for solar panels, all at a time when oil prices remain elevated far above their historic norms. Anything to add?
But the big drop in silicon solar pane prices — between 30 and 40 percent so far this year — presents a growing threat to First Solar’s advantage as a low-cost solar panel maker. First Solar uses cadmium-telluride instead of silicon for its solar panels.
The company initially won promises of federal loan guarantees for four of its U.S. solar farm projects, but lost the one that would have guaranteed a bulk of a $1.9 billion project in California called Topaz Solar Farm. It was able to finalize the loan guarantees for three other projects and sell them to utilities and other investors.So in other words, without the federal government propping them up, First Solar would quickly go the way of Solyndra. This is yet another nail in the coffin for the hopes that solar energy will save us from the onrushing effects of both climate change and fossil fuel depletion. The only way out of those predicaments is to power down. Solar power on a localized, sustainable scale could be a part of that. Too bad we're so determined to pound this square peg into the round hole of business as usual.
First Solar needs to find a buyer for the 550-megawatt Topaz project, and that has proven a rather difficult task. A report emerged Monday that a potential buyer, Enbridge, backed out of the deal.