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Archive → November, 2010

New York Times: Solyndra to close plant

Solyndra's CIGS solar inside glass tubes cast shadows on a rooftop. Credit: Solyndra

The New York Times reports that tubular thin-film solar maker Solyndra is shutting its first fabrication plant, now that it’s second plant is on-line. Solyndra was a high flyer in the cleantech space, raising oodles of private funding and a $535 million federal loan guarantee.

The Times reports the closure of the older plant means the loss of 40 permanent and 150 temporary jobs. Additionally, it takes a big bite out of the company’s planned capacity, more than halving it from 610 MW to 285-300 MW by 2013.

In the summer, Solyndra revealed some details about its cost structure when it filed for a possible IPO (the firm decided not to go public). At the time, many analysts pointed out that the firm, which makes modules from glass tubes containing a layer of  thin-film CIGs cells, would have a hard time competing with low cost polysilicon-based solar modules from China.

Cleantech VC’s will be watching CA election results

UPDATE Nov 3: Proposition 23 was defeated 61.3% to 38.7% with 96.9% of precincts counted.

This evening, backers of large renewable energy projects will be looking to California election results to see how friendly that state will be to large projects in the near future. The issue is Proposition 23, an effort to get voters to roll back one of the strong legal measures the state has put in place to transition energy production from fossil to renewable sources. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Prop23 has backing from oil companies Tesoro Corp. and Valero Energy Corp., two companies that would suffer from tighter emissions restrictions under a state law called AB32.

Interestingly, opponents of Prop23, including cleantech venture investors, have raised $29.8 million, about triple the amount raised by the oil companies supporting it, according to the Chronicle.

The law that Prop23 challenges is part of a state effort to require 33% renewable power by 2020. If the proposition passes, a longer standing law requiring utilities to get 20% of their energy from renewable sources would still be in place.

Finally, Peer-reviewed Research on BPA Levels in U.S. Foods

canned food in grocery store

Canned food was part of a new BPA study. Credit: Melody Voith

It’s always heartening to see facts start to catch up to controversy. My colleague Kellyn Betts reports on a new study in Environmental Science & Technology that analyzed a market basket of food products, including canned food, for traces of Bisphenol A. BPA is used as a plasticizer in some food packaging and to make epoxy resins in food cans, and has come under scrutiny for possible health effects, especially on infants and children.

C&EN has covered activist, government, and tradegroup takes on the BPA controversy, as well as efforts taken by chemical makers and food brands to do away with BPA. Recently, a survey by Green Century Capital Management found that canned food manufacturers were making real progress replacing BPA. That’s why it’s rather surprising to read what is now being called the very first peer-reviewed study to look at how much BPA actually migrates into food sold and consumed in the U.S. This seems like vital data that would be needed to make public policy decisions. One area of controversy, for example, is whether the EPA’s recommended limit for BPA consumption is too high. So it’s helpful to note that the research suggests a U.S. consumer’s possible “body burden” of BPA is below the recommended threshold, but perhaps at or above a threshold where there may be concern.