Oct 172011
 
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SHANGHAI — The recent high-profile implosion of Fremont, Calif.-based solar manufacturer Solyndra can be traced to sprawling cities in China, where low-cost manufacturers have come to dominate the global industry by pushing down the price of solar panels to a point where most U.S. companies can’t compete.

China now claims three-fifths of the world’s solar panel production capacity. Chinese solar panel manufacturers such as JA Solar, now the world’s largest, say companies from Silicon Valley and elsewhere blundered by betting on new technologies instead of focusing on making panels cheaper to produce.

“It’s not a pure technology business,” said JA Solar CEO Peng Fang, whose workforce grew from 4,000 to 12,000 last year. “If you invest in it as technology first and (cost reduction) second, you miss it. You need to reverse that.”

But some industry experts disagree. They say the failure of some U.S. solar panel manufacturers — with more collapses likely to follow as panel prices continue to fall — does not mean the sun has set on Silicon Valley’s solar ambitions. Ultimately, they say, breakthrough technology from Silicon Valley and elsewhere will be needed to drive the solar industry forward.

While “you can’t beat the Chinese at their own game (of low-cost manufacturing), it is possible to go against the Chinese if you develop alternative technologies,” said Shyam Mehta, a solar analyst with GTM Research, a renewable-energy market analysis firm.

 Posted by at 4:57 pm

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