Solar Shakeout: Konarka Technologies files for bankruptcy

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Failure to secure further funding has forced flexible thin-film manufacturer, Konarka Technologies into bankruptcy. The Chapter 7 bankruptcy via a Massachusetts Bankruptcy Court means full liquidation and asset sale to pay creditors. Since its initial venture capital funding in 2001, the company had raised around US$190 million to develop and market its roll-to-roll OPV (organic photovoltaic) technology.

“Konarka has been unable to obtain additional financing, and given its current financial condition, it is unable to continue operations,” noted Howard Berke, chairman, president and CEO of Konarka in a statement. “This is a tragedy for Konarka’s shareholders and employees and for the development of alternative energy in the United States.”

As stated in bankruptcy court filings, Konarka had debts of up to US$50 million but assets of only US$500,000. Subsidiary, Konarka NB Holdings had up to US$10 million in assets but only US$50,000 in debts. Approximately, 85 jobs will be lost. 

However, Konarka management noted that the company had received potential offers to either acquire or provide further funding, including from the Chinese government. However, a court-appointed trustee would have to be responsible for any negotiations.

The OPV firm had received venture capital from a host of big names, including oil companies, Chevron and Total, VC firms, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and New Enterprise Associates as well as Konica Minolta and Good Energies.

Konarka follows numerous other PV manufacturers into bankruptcy and especially those in the BIPV and BAPV markets, which are struggling to develop and expand. Energy Conversion Devises, Nuon Helianthos, Scheuten Solar, Odersun and Soltecture all focused on these two markets.

Altogether 13 thin-film firms have gone bankrupt or closed down since April, 2010 when the first thin-film company, SunFilm closed its doors. However, the majority have failed since the beginning of 2012, as overcapacity and aggressive ASP declines for conventional crystalline silicon technologies have exposed higher production costs and lower cell efficiencies of a-Si thin-film technologies, in particular.

As of the beginning of June, 2012 around 40 companies in the PV industry have failed of which 26 have been this year.

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