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Monday, January 16, 2012

In Memoriam: 2011 solar shakeout victims

As part of updating a research paper I’m writing on solar policy, I’ve been catching up on the state of the solar business. (Regular readers will note that since I joined KGI, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to biofuels).

To start, I thought I’d look at all the solar firms that died (or otherwise were mortally wounded) in 2011. I traced down the announcements of the firms mentioned in various stories, and here is what I found:
Current Status
SoliantMonrovia, CAprivateCPVMar. 29LiquidatedLiquidated for 1.5¢ on the dollar
EvergreenMarlboro, MAESLRribbon SiAug. 15Chapter 11Liquidated
SpectraWattHopewell Junction, NYprivateSiAug. 19Chapter 11In liquidation
SolyndraFremont, CAprivatethin film (CIGS)Aug. 31Chapter 11Liquidated
Stirling Energy SystemsScottsdale, AZprivatethermal (Stirling engine)Sep. 23Chapter 7In liquidation
Solon AGBerlin, GermanySOO1.FSiDec. 13InsolvencySeeking a buyer
BP SolarUK(division of BP)SiDec. 20Announced plans to closeWinding down
Solar Millennium AGErlangen, GermanyS2M.FCSP & PV solar farmsDec. 21InsolvencySelling solar farm projects

Most of these were solar system manufacturers, making panels, tubes (Solyndra) or stand-alone thermal generating dishes (Stirling). The mainstream companies (like SpectraWatt) might have IP that’s useful for other PV companies, while the oddball companies (Evergreen, Solyndra, Stirling) had unique technologies of little or no value to other firms.

BP Solar’s decision to get out of PV marks the latest realization by oil companies that biofuels (not solar) fit their existing business model. I hope to blog on this another time.

Solar Millennium is unique in that it was a large solar farm developer, and thus its projects (if they still make economic sense) might be bought by other companies. One of its largest projects is the 1 gigawatt Blythe Solar Power Project that won a $2.1 billion loan guarantee from the DEO and was praised by DOE Secretary Steven Chu and California governor Jerry Brown. It appears that the Blythe and other US projects are being sold by Solar Millennium’s majority owned US subsidiary to SolarHybrid AG.

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