There is no doubt that last year's bankruptcy of Solyndra, a maker of thin-film solar panels that received a $535 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy, is casting a huge shadow over the market for solar power. So it's no surprise that when SoloPower, another Silicon Valley manufacturer of solar panels, opened the first 100-megawatt production line of its planned 400-megawatt manufacturing facility in Portland, Oregon, this week, it raised eyebrows and howls of protest.
Indeed, the news media and various solar observers were quick to point out the obvious. SoloPower makes CIGS-based solar panels, the same technology used by Solyndra. And like its failed predecessor, SoloPower has been awarded a federal loan guarantee (its $197 million loan was approved last year during the same month that Solyndra announced bankruptcy, though SoloPower hasn't begun tapping into the money). What's more, SoloPower is targeting the same niche market as Solyndra: rooftops of industrial or commercial buildings.