While Republicans are going after the Obama Administration over Solyndra, proving they're enemies of a growing industry (not a good political position to be in ), real progress continues to be made out of sight.
Some of the bad news is actually good news. The failure of Stirling Energy pretty much takes solar thermal off the table. With that question dealt with investments in solar photovoltaics can be redoubled.
Fact is we are on track for cost parity with fossil fuels. If we remain stuck in the past our economy will suffer.
And while most pessimists focus on the raw efficiency of cells, there are many, many dimensions of improvement coming on-stream.
Reduce the silicon in a panel and you cut its production cost in half. That's the business of Astrowatt, which is offering substrates and back contacts that have the added advantage of making silicon cells as flexible as thin film.
ArrayPower is promising to reduce the cost of converting the DC power of solar panels into AC power for use in the grid. The key is pulse amplitude modulation, a technique borrowed from Ethernet and LED lighting.
Roseicollis Technologies offers the SunSaluter, a $10 panel tracker that replaces $600 tilting motors with simple bamboo and recycled metal, that tilts the panel to face the Sun constantly and increases the amount of power it generates up to 40%. The inventor is a 19-year old Ivy League drop-out. (Stop me if you've heard that one before .)
Arizona State has a new technology that separates sunlight into its constituent colors to dramatically increase solar efficiency. The new cells are also fabricated in one step – another huge improvement.
Overall, venture funds going to green technology were up 23% in the third quarter from the same quarter last year.
Those using Solyndra or any other failure to sound this industry's doom don't know how technology evolves, or how industry works. Failures are part of the game. But from failure you often get success. And the more failures you have in an industry, the more likely it is that success is just around the corner.