Chart: The death spiral of solar bankruptcies (& counting)

By  Apr. 5, 2012, 3:30pm PT 6 Comments
The solar death spiral has been long and ugly. Over the past year, there have been over a dozen stalwarts and startups that have headed to bankruptcy court.

Two companies even filed for bankruptcies in this week alone: manufacturer Q-Cells, which was the worlds largest solar cell maker in 2008 and power plant developer Solar Trust of America, which just a year ago was on its way to build a few gigawatts of solar projects in the American Southwest.

The fate of Solar Trust, which is mostly owned by Solar Millennium, is a reminder of the difficulties of shepherding a power plant project to completion, even when all the permits are in hand. Solar Trust’s crown jewel project was the 1 GW Blythe Solar farm in California, and at one point the company was set to snag a $2.1 billion federal loan guarantee to build it before it decided to withdraw from the loan guarantee process last summer and change the technology it would use for Blythe.

Solar Millennium tried to sell Solar Trust to a fellow German company, Solarhybrid, only to see Solarhybird, too, file for bankruptcy last month.

So here’s our tally of the solar company bankruptcies over the past year and there’s probably more that we haven’t heard about. Many of them are manufacturers who had a tough time dealing with lower-than-expected demand, plummeting prices and financial market turmoil.

Company HQ Primary business Date
Solyndra U.S. Solar panel maker August 2011
Evergreen Solar U.S. Solar panel maker August 2011
SpectraWatt U.S. Solar panel maker who sold all of its equipment for $4.9 million to Canadian Solar September 2011
Stirling Energy Systems U.S. Equipment and project developer September 2011
Photowatt France Solar panel maker (sold to EDF) November 2011
Solon Germany Solar panel maker, project developer (assets sold to Microsol) December 2011
BP Solar* U.K. *The energy giant didn’t file for bankruptcy but is winding down its solar business (equipment and installation). December 2011
Energy Conversion Devices U.S. Solar panel maker February 2012
SunConcept Germany Project developer February 2012
Ralos New Energies Germany Project developer February 2012
Scheuten Solar Netherlands Solar panel maker (its German subsidiary filed for bankruptcy); assets to be sold to Sunway February 2012
Solarhybrid Germany Project developer March 2012
Odersun Germany Solar panel maker March 2012
Q-Cells Germany Solar panel maker, project developer April 2012
Solar Trust of America U.S. Project developer (part of Solar Millennium) April 2012

Photo courtesy of Josh Giovo via Flickr

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