Abound Solar received a $400 million loan guarantee from the DOE. Now it’s halting production and laying off 180 workers.
By the way, $400 million divided by 180 workers equals $2.2 million per job.
There’s also an interesting article in Technology Review about Alta Devices, a solar company that’s doing it right. Since 2007, Alta has been working on ways to scale up production of solar cells made of gallium arsenide, which is incredibly good at turning sunlight into electricity. Unlike other companies such as Solyndra or Abound, Alta has decided not to spend enormous amounts of money building production capacity before they are sure that they can scale up production cost-effectively. The problem is that if you build production capacity before you know if you can be successful scaling up, you risk losing everything.
Alta has raised $120 million, but it knows that it would take a lot more- up to $1 billion- to build a factory to produce solar cells with their technology. Their investors- 100% private- are not interested in taking that kind of risk, at least not yet. It’s only companies that invest other peoples’ money (taxpayers’ money, that is) which so far have been willing to bet everything on outcomes with a very low probability of success. It’s still early stages for solar research.
DOE funding was motivated by desire to deploy a lot of money quickly and hopefully create (a few) jobs in alternative fuels. Alta’s objective has been to achieve real success building real solutions. Alta has raised several rounds of funding, and is now building a $40 million test production facility. Meanwhile, another DOE client bites the dust…