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Protecting innovative niches in the green economy: investigating the rise and fall of Solyndra, 2005-11

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Original languageEnglish
JournalGeoJournal
DOIs
E-pub ahead of print19 May 2016

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Abstract

This article examines the establishment and development of a protected ‘green’ niche around the solar manufacturing industry in the United States in the 2000s. The paper uses the case of Solyndra, an innovative solar manufacturing corporation founded in 2005 and that went bankrupt in 2011, as a window into identifying the key factors that led to the failure of Solyndra. Solyndra was, at the time, the largest recipient of loan funding from the US Department of Energy, making it into the main representative of a key strategic industry identified as a target for federal support as part of US stimulus funding after the 2008 financial crisis. The analysis of the Solyndra failure case presented here highlights the need for strategic transitional niches to be shielded longitudinally by a strategic, entrepreneurial state, and considered in light of transnational exogenous factors. The article also argues for the importance of analysing discursive strategies that perform strategic niches as belonging to specific societal pathways.

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