Solyndra the latest US solar company to go bankrupt

Cylindrical solar panel manufacturer joins Evergreen Solar and SpectraWatt in declaring bankruptcy in the last month

Solyndra has become the latest US solar company to file for bankruptcy in what has proved a rough month for the sector.

The solar module manufacturer announced yesterday it was ceasing operations and laying off 1,100 full-time and temporary employees. A Chapter 11 filing is expected next week, just weeks after Evergreen Solar and Intel-backed SpectraWatt also sought bankruptcy protection.

In a statement, Solyndra blamed uncertainties around solar subsidies in Europe for creating a worldwide oversupply of panels, which forced prices to a level where it could no longer compete with bigger rivals.

“Despite strong growth in the first half of 2011 and traction in North America with a number of orders for very large commercial rooftops, Solyndra could not achieve full-scale operations rapidly enough to compete in the near-term with the resources of larger foreign manufacturers,” it said.

The company is now evaluating options, including selling the business or licensing its copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) technology.

It is quite a fall from grace for Solyndra, whose innovative cylindrical solar panels led it to the brink of a $300m IPO last year, before the companycancelled the proposed offering. Its plant in Freemont, California, also hosted President Obama in 2010, while the year before the company was awarded a $535m loan guarantee from the Department of Energy.

Following the spate of bankruptcies, Democrat Henry Waxman, California congressman and chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, warned “the United States is in danger of losing its leadership position in the clean energy economy of the future.

“We should be doing everything possible to ensure the US does not cede the renewable energy market to China and other countries,” Waxman added.

However, Republican congressmen Fred Upton of Michigan and Cliff Stearns of Florida claimed the failures are an indictment of President Obama’s renewable energy policies.

“It is clear Solyndra was a dubious investment,” they said in a joint statement. “[The company] is just the latest casualty of the Obama administration’s failed stimulus.”

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