Solar Panel Start-Up To Receive $197 Million Government Loan

Solar panel start-up SoloPower has been awarded a $197 million government loan guarantee from the same program that backed the flopped panel maker Solyndra.

The tiny solar panel start-up will begin production at a US factory on Thursday, but already concerns about the similarities between SoloPower and Solyndra are being voiced. Solyndra was infamously granted more than $500 million in government loans before it filed for bankruptcy in 2011.

Critics of the loan point out that, much like Solyndra, SoloPower is a Silicon Valley start-up that uses the same non-traditional raw material in its solar panels. Skeptics also argue that SoloPower is entering the market when it is already overloaded with cheap solar products manufactured in China.

Many companies that make the panels are now said to be clinging to survival. Even the biggest player in the international market, China’s Suntech Power Holdings Inc, warned last week that it may be delisted by the New York Stock Exchange due its share price —which reached $90 in 2008 — plummeted to less than $1.

However, despite the doom and gloom around the solar panel industry, global demand for photovoltaic solar installations is still expected to increase by 8 per cent this year.

Loan guarantees are awarded as part of the Department of Energy’s $35 billion program to support emerging clean energy technologies. SoloPower is the fourth US panel manufacturer to clinch such a guarantee.

Should SoloPower endure the same fate as Solyndra, President Barack Obama will be put under increasing pressure to prove the worth of the program.

The Republican-controlled US House of Representatives passed a ‘No More Solyndras” bill earlier this month in a bid to wind down the energy loans program. However, said bill is unlikely to be accepted by the US Senate or signed by President Obama.