Why the cleantech boom went bust

Solyndra panels


Due to a confluence of factors—including fluctuating silicon prices, newly cheap natural gas, the 2008 financial crisis, China’s ascendant solar industry, and certain technological realities—the clean-tech bubble has burst, leaving us with a traditional energy infrastructure still overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuels. The fallout has hit almost every niche in the clean-tech sector—wind, biofuels, electric cars, and fuel cells—but none more dramatically than solar.

And Solyndra was the most public. They bet on cutting edge solar technology and that the price of silicon would stay high. But the price of silicon fell, making their alternative less attractive. But the killer was the plummeting price of natural gas. Cleantech was assuming the price of fossil fuels would continue going up. But natural gas has done the opposite, making cleantech much more expensive by comparison.