Solar Panel Start-Up Gets $197 Million Government Loan

The government recently approved a new $197 million loan to an emerging solar panel company that critics contend looks eerily similar to the now-bankrupt Solyndra.

Solar panel start-up Solopower is a Silicon Valley-based enterprise that is set to begin manufacturing on Thursday. The loan will enable the green energy maker to use funds made available by the Department of Energy's $35 billion program that aims to support emerging clean energy businesses around the country.

But critics maintain that the current state of the solar industry is extremely volatile, with cheap solar products from Asia flooding and dominating the market. Any further taxpayer dollars to fund such projects could ultimately go the way of the much discussed solar panel producer Solyndra.

Solyndra grabbed national attention after it became known that the company took more than $500 million in government loans before it shut down its operation.

Skeptics also point to the fact that SoloPower uses the same non-traditional materials for their photovoltaic cells that Solyndra used, coupled with the fact that SoloPower was one of only four U.S. companies that were approved for a loan by the Dept. of Energy.

To make things even more unsettling, the future of the global solar industry is uncertain, given that the price of solar panels has dropped nearly 30 percent. Still, even with all the negative news surrounding this particular industry, there is still a bit of optimism for manufacturers.

Analysts are anticipating that with the decreasing price of solar panels, demand will pick up, and they are estimating a global increase of 8 percent for the coming year. With that outlook, SoloPower has been able to secure nearly $200 million from various private investors.

"Before one dollar of the DOE loan is relied upon it will be demonstrable that this is a company that absolutely can manufacture a product that there will be verifiable demand for," John Cavalier, a managing partner with Hudson Clean Energy Partners which invested in SoloPower, told Reuters.