Solar Business Niche Suffers Yet Another Major Outage

As predicted in NACM’s eNews more than a month ago, “green” business has become far from gold, especially where solar is concerned. Just Monday, NACM covered the SpectraWatt Inc. Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. One day later, yet another company announced it was with certainty heading down the same path.

Solyndra LLC, a solar energy products firm which gained notoriety during well-publicized visit there by President Barack Obama in 2010, announced plans to file for bankruptcy protection as early as next week. It marks the third solar in a month to official file for or announce Chapter 11 in the last month, with more potential struggling firms in the pipeline. Like SpectraWatt shortly before them, the company’s high-tech solar product offerings had become “noncompetitive” as Asian manufacturers, especially those based in China, continue to deeply undercut the firm and its competitors on pricing and overhead. Even significant financial assistance in the form of federal programs could not help enough. The problems are fueling speculation about widespread, near unrecoverable problems emerging in the solar business niche. More than 1,000 Solyndra employees are expected to be out of work almost immediately as a result of the company’s proverbial white flag.

As previously noted, it’s a prediction Credit Management Association's Mike Joncich make in an interview for stories in NACM's eNews and the new issue of Business Credit Magazine. He noted the industry's problems go deeper than just an economic downturn/slow recovery and include serious over-saturation:

"There was over-investment in those industries [during the boom], and a number of companies are going to fall out that didn't have the right ideas or right business models to survive,” said Joncich. “Credit managers have to be aware of such phenomena."

Earlier this month, Massachusetts-based Evergreen Solar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and, months before that,  Maryland-based BP solar operation halted its activity in favor of relocation abroad to save costs.

Brian Shappell, NACM staff writer