Major automotive supplier Bosch is stepping out of the solar power business after having lost 2.4 billion euros (nearly $3.1 billion US) since starting up its solar energy subsidiary in 2008.

Bosch will end its solar power panel production early next year, and put parts of this business unit up for sale. Bosch's car parts division created the solar power business after it bought Aleo Solar and Ersol. The solar subsidiary lost 1 billion euros (about $1.28 billion US) last year.

After the German government curbed green energy subsidies and Chinese competitors flooded the market with cheap products, the business climate has been rough for Bosch. Other German solar companies are feeling the pinch – major solar companies SolarWorld and Conergy are in debt restructuring talks and Q-Cells filed for insolvency last year. "This is possibly the most painful experience that I have had to endure in my professional career," said Bosch chairman Franz Fehrenbach in a company statement.

In 2011, Germany produced 25,000 megawatts of electricity through solar power, nearly as much solar energy as was generated in the rest of the world combined.

The German government had been handing out generous subsidies funded by electricity surcharges to encourage consumers to choose renewable energy over nuclear and fossil fuel. Germany changed course on the subsidies in an attempt to bring down overcapacity in the solar industry. In 2011, Germany produced 25,000 megawatts of electricity through solar power, nearly as much solar energy as was generated in the rest of the world combined. During that time, Chinese solar companies flooded global markets with cheap solar panels. The European Commission launched a dumping investigation to look into it.

German automakers have been feeling the squeeze as well from the government's clean energy campaign. They had been paying taxes on renewable energy during a time when vehicle sales were down. BMW has deployed wind turbine towers, and Daimler and Volkswagen are changing over to gas-powered plants. These power sources have been saving the automakers money on their energy costs – it's cheaper to generate their own energy than to pay taxes on renewables made by commercial producers.

German automakers have been fiscally conservative lately as auto sales have dropped, and that may have something to with their decisions to reject the European Union's push for adoption of HFO-1234yf refrigerant. The new refrigerant is scheduled to replace HFC-134a coolant in 2017. Daimler engineers discovered HFO-1234yf could spark a fire under the hood, with the potential to destroy the car and emit highly toxic gas while burning. Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen are walking away from HFO-1234yf, which is not going over well with the European Union.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 33 Comments
      Spec
      • 1 Year Ago
      Make their pain your gain. There is an over-capacity of panel making right now such that panels are real cheap. It is a great time to invest in a PV system for your home. For less than $10K in parts you can build a 5KW system that should easily provide all your electrical needs.
        Marcopolo
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Spec
        @ Spec But do you really gain ? Yes, you may buy cheaper today, but tomorrow's solar industry is left with little profit or investment incentive to R&D better products. After the high quality manufacturers have been driven from the business by unfair practice, Americans with left with an inferior product, made exclusively in the PRC, while US workers are on welfare.
        Ryan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Spec
        I paid $10k in 2011 for a 1.68 kWh system installed. The prices have come down a lot, and if I did it myself along with getting an electrician to do the panel wiring, I could see getting a 5 kWh system for $10k today. But, the 30% tax refund might not apply if you DIY.
          Spec
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Ryan
          $30K tax credit applies for DIY. You do need to jump through all the hoops of submitting plans, getting them approved, and getting it inspected.
        EZEE
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Spec
        See $10k comment above... Are there any national installers? I am interested but really lazy today. As mentioned, I know people (myself included) plus some crazies that might be interested.
          Spec
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EZEE
          I think there are a few national installers. SolarCity is probably one of the most well known around here as it is Elon Musk's company.
          EZEE
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EZEE
          Cool. Helping Elon out would make it a twofer.
      Rotation
      • 1 Year Ago
      China also didn't save Suntech. That's two companies gone in two weeks. Prices will be rising.
        Spec
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rotation
        Prices may rise in due time. But for now they remain cheap. And Suntech continues to operate, they'll just restructure and not pay back those bonds. But with all the sunk costs of buying all that equipment, it makes sense for them to keep running in order to at least get some return on all that investment.
      brotherkenny4
      • 1 Year Ago
      Solar will be a commodity market. I don't know that the Auto industry in general is suited for that. Why do you think they hate EVs so much, because they will also be more commodity like than the ICE junk they currently sell. The years of easy money made them fat at the top and none of them wants to fire the "yes men/golfing buddies" that helped them with their own personal careers. Parts suppliers are no different. In fact, most old businesses are the same, just to much flab in the management area. It's easy to fire workers, but not your "colleagues". So HFO-123yf sounds just like gasoline. "1234yf could spark a fire under the hood, with the potential to destroy the car and emit highly toxic gas while burning".
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        Excellent points. Yeah, this high tech stuff is expensive as-is, and there's no room for nice profits on top. So only the Chinese are interested, as they can take a tiny margin, and those dollars go further in China. I was thinking about this yesterday as i pulled the airbox and battery out of my '98 Nissan 200SX. They designed the engine bay to look clean, but when you take a peek at the back of the engine, there are dozens upon dozens of criss-crossing tubes leading to all sorts of valves and such. Looks like there are a hundred things connected to the gasoline engine externally, as if it's on life support.. and internally we know there are 50-100 moving parts or so. What happens when all of this is replaced with a motor that has one moving part and 2-8 wires coming out of it? A motor that requires no maintenance over it's entire lifespan, except maybe a set of bearings every decade or so? what happens to the smog shops, the service shops, parts suppliers, half of a dealership's inventory? what happens to the transmission shops and the oil change joints? the refineries, the drilling operations? What happens to the half of our military activity which keeps the oil flowing on our terms? Electric drive technology is about as disruptive as the internet itself - maybe more. Solar is probably in the same realm. My guess is that these companies have realized that the writing is on the wall for them, so they ought to milk the old exploding dino juice technology as long as possible and not further their own demise.
          EZEE
          • 1 Year Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          Cars will still have brakes, HVAC, and plenty of other stuff to go wrong. Oil change places may be in Troy or, but I cannot remember the last time I had any engine problems with a car or even my boat. No wait, my piece of crap Subaru. 1980's model.
      Marcopolo
      • 1 Year Ago
      This sort of situation will always occur when governments attempt to create ill-conceived artificial demand for products, based on ideological grounds. The Solar industry has suffered as a result of boom and bust conditions created by poorly administered, government incentives and subsidies. In a rush of enthusiasm to be pursue popularist ideology, government incentives have distorted the natural growth of the Solar industry, leading to a collapse of local high quality and innovative technologies, in favour of poorer quality, mass produced products from heavily subsided PRC factories. While local Solar industries may try to explain the complex and detrimental problems artificial demand creates, governments don't care as long as they continue to receive environmental accolades from supporters of cheaper solar panels. In the end, all the grand hype dies, and the industry is left poorer, and dominated by the cheapest manufacturers, not the most innovative. It will take years to recover, and even longer for investment to return to produce better more innovative products.
      Tweaker
      • 1 Year Ago
      ummm, no, Germany did not produce "almost as much as the rest of the world combined". About half as much. And they rank #7 in the total use of renewables.
        budfox
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Tweaker
        uhm, no, Germany did produce almost as much solar energy as the rest of the world. your link lists the total of produced renewable energy. you may check your own source again. Solar: e.g. China 3 TW·h/year Germany 19 TW·h/year
        Michael
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Tweaker
        Source please.
          Tweaker
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Michael
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_production_from_renewable_sources
      JRBEINGINEER
      • 1 Year Ago
      “Germany produced 25,000 megawatts of electricity through solar power, nearly as much solar energy as was generated in the rest of the world combined.” “25,000 megawatts” is not an amount of energy; it is an amount of power. Electrical energy is measured in megawatt-hours.
      Ford Future
      • 1 Year Ago
      German Renewables http://climatecrocks.com/2013/03/26/german-renewables-still-busting-gas-and-nuclear/
        EZEE
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Ford Future
        Can you summarize? I am too lazy to click on the link and read...
          EZEE
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EZEE
          Sweet, thank you Rak! :-)
          raktmn
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EZEE
          The summary is that german renewables are still busting gas and nuclear.... =)
      JoeP
      • 1 Year Ago
      I have a really bad feeling about this... In the past, when renewables were about to get major traction, oil prices came down to bankrupt the renewable companies. In this case, China has flooded the market so other solar companies are going out of business. Solyndra may not have been the best run company, but they had good technology. Their biggest problem was that prices collapsed on them. When these companies go out of business, will the prices go back up? I am pretty sure they will, and if we don't make a fuss about it, we will be right back where we started, but with companies very hesitant to invest in renewables again. Grim assessment, but it's consistent with past events. I hope I am wrong. Does anyone else see it this way? My attention will be on how we can respond if this turns out to be the case.
        Spec
        • 1 Year Ago
        @JoeP
        Oil doesn't compete directly with solar panels. And they can't drop the price. But natural gas does and natural gas has put up stiff competition in the USA where natural gas is cheap. But many places have minimum renewable portfolio standards that required X% of electricity from renewable so the solar goes ahead nonetheless. And for homeowners where you pay retail rates, solar power is quite competitive on a retail level.
        EZEE
        • 1 Year Ago
        @JoeP
        'Solyndra may have not been the best run company...' The glass-and-metal building that Solyndra LLC began erecting alongside Interstate 880 in Fremont, California, in September 2009 was something the Silicon Valley area hadn’t seen in years: a new factory. It wasn’t just any factory. When it was completed at an estimated cost of $733 million, including proceeds from a $535 million U.S. loan guarantee, it covered 300,000 square feet, the equivalent of five football fields. It had robots that whistled Disney tunes, spa-like showers with liquid-crystal displays of the water temperature, and glass-walled conference rooms. I like the part about the robots...
          Spec
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EZEE
          Solyndra was a funky thin-film technology that just got crushed when silicon prices dropped like a rock. But Solyndra dying was evidence of the solar industry doing great not of it dying . . . . they died while others prospered.
          Rotation
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EZEE
          Yeah, unless you install yourself, it's going to be hard to get a 5kW system for $10K. But there is the big tax credit you get. The payback is about 7 years, so take the amount you pay in a year on electricity and multiply by 7 and that's going to be the approximate cost of a system to cover your total use. If you want to only partially cover your electric use you can spend less and then just continue to buy some power from your utility. Again, this is just an approximation.
          EZEE
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EZEE
          :-) I was just having fun at the previous comment, and not the state of the industry. Your comment on $10k has me thinking about my place. I live in Florida and $10k for a solar system is interesting. If true, I will start looking. Obviously to save money for my evil needs, and not for the environment.... ;-) Interestingly, when costs come down like that, 'normal' people will start looking harder, and even abnormal people... I know of people who are building their reinforced building for the coming Apocolypse, and why not have electricity when it happens? $10k isn't that much, especially if you are building an entire....fortress.
          Spec
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EZEE
          $10K is for parts only. And it is for a grid-tied system that won't work if your electricity is cut off. Battery systems cost more and generally are not worth it. They are only for remote cabins and paranoid survivalists. But $10K is before the tax-incentives.
        Letstakeawalk
        • 1 Year Ago
        @JoeP
        "Does anyone else see it this way?" Apparently, the EU does: "The European Commission launched a dumping investigation to look into it."
      • 1 Year Ago
      Government should be making huge solar PV purchases and erecting large-scale installations. We are going to need massive amounts of PV panels in the near future, and governments have a responsibility to keep them solvent.
        Letstakeawalk
        • 1 Year Ago
        "...and governments have a responsibility to keep them solvent." Derp.
          danispirig
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          germany carried all the burden and in addition saw their solar industry falter. still most believe in transition to renewables for there isn't any rational plan b. smart grid and best practice will help a lot to have 50% percent renewables by 2035. denmark is moving even faster paying companies for reduction of energy consumption. since it is imperative it does not have to be profitable but funny enough it is not counting long term cost in costal areas-
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