Two US solar manufacturers file for bankruptcy

Posted at July 7, 2012 » By : » Categories : News » Comments Off on Two US solar manufacturers file for bankruptcy

US solar panel developers Konarka Technologies and Abound Solar have filed for bankruptcy in recent days.

Konarka Technologies, based in Lowell in Massachusetts and Nuremberg in Germany, was a leading developer of thin-film solar photovoltaic technologies.

The company was founded by president and CEO Howard Berke and Nobel Prize Laureate Alan Heeger, who is one of the pioneers of photovoltaics.

But after failing to secure financial backing, the company has ceased operations and its assets, which include hundreds of patents and a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in New Bedford, Massachusetts, are being liquidated.

“Konarka has been unable to obtain additional financing, and given its current financial condition, it is unable to continue operations,” Berke said in a statement.

However, he added that a last minute rescue package might not be out of the question as there had been expressions of interest from several large international companies in financing or acquiring the company, as well as from the Chinese government.

Work at the German RD division can be sustained for the moment, according to attorney Alexander Kubusch of national German insolvency administration firm CURATOR, but an investor is needed as soon as possible.

“If we are able to find an investor and also keep the existing, as well as government research contracts in the company, I have every confidence that the company will be able to keep going long term at its Nuremberg site,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, fellow thin-film cadmium telluride (CdTe) panel manufacturer Abound Solar, which is based in Delaware, has also suspended operations.

The company ceased production of its first generation photovoltaic module earlier this year and has been scaling-up its manufacturing to produce its new high-efficiency, second-generation module.

But over the last few months, the company has been unable to come to an agreement with potential buyers.

Abound has been funded with $300 million in private investment and, in another potential blow for the Obama Administration after the Solyndra debacle, $70 million from the Department of Energy loan guarantee programme.

The company had been awarded a total of $400 million through the loan guarantee programme, but has not drawn down any further funds since August last year when the DOE deemed the market conditions too challenging to merit additional funding.

Abound blames “aggressive pricing actions” by Chinese solar panel companies for making market conditions very difficult for early stage startup companies.

According to the US Commerce Department, solar panel prices have dropped by more than 50% over the past year as imports of Chinese-made solar cells have quadrupled from $639 million in 2009 to $3.1 billion in 2011.

The company says recent federal action to enforce trade levies on Chinese imports though welcome have come too late.

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