Infographic: What’s Really Happening At Solyndra

You’ve heard bad things about it in the news, but one company’s bankruptcy doesn’t spell doom for the solar industry, or government funding of energy projects.


If you’ve read any news recently, you’ve heard of Solyndra, the big solar firm whose bankruptcy is causing headaches for the Obama administration and is being used as evidence that the world isn’t ready for solar power. But the administration is plunging ahead with renewable energy grants, and when you look at the evidence, it seems that they may be in the right; Solyndra may not prove much of anything besides that the market punishes bad businesses.

A new infographic from solar from One Block Off The Grid takes a look at what exactly happened to Solyndra, and what it means for the rest of the industry, outside of allowing a lot of people to bloviate. As we’ve written before, Solyndra’s solar panels were simply beaten by the market. Though Solyndra was once beating the average price badly, today, other companies are making their products cheaper:

If anything, this means that solar is more accessible. Solyndra’s failure is because solar panels are cheaper and more people have access to them. And what does it say about the government’s grant program? Well, Solyndra did get a large chunk of money from the government (and us taxpayers), and that money is now gone. But it’s a tiny amount of the total money that the government is investing in renewables:

And do Solyndra’s failings presage a general failure by the government to invest smartly in renewable energy projects? Is the program’s entire $38.6 billion doomed to be lost like the $535 million given to Solyndra? Barring other unforseen disruptions in the market, the other nine of the top 10 most funded companies are all doing fine:



Issues of any shady emails between the administration and the company aside, Solyndra is an edge case when it comes to the prospects for solar power. The free market rejected Solyndra’s approach–other people can build solar panels cheaper. While the DOE’s grant program officers should, perhaps, have seen that development coming, the Solyndra case doesn’t seem to be part of any trends about the lack of impact of solar power and government funding of renewables.

The full graphic, which also includes a helpful timeline of Solyndra’s demise, is below, or you can look at it large on 1BOG’s site here.

Morgan Clendaniel can be reached by email or on Twitter.

About the author

Morgan is a senior editor at Fast Company. He edits the Ideas section, formerly