Konarka Technologies, a developer of thin-film solar panels, has filed for bankruptcy and will begin to liquidate its assets immediately.
The failure of Massachusetts-based company will lead to 85 employees losing their jobs, and another perceived black eye for America’s solar industry.
In a statement, Howard Berke, Konarka’s CEO explained the reasons for the bankruptcy: “Konarka has been unable to obtain additional financing, and given its current financial condition, it is unable to continue operations. This is a tragedy for Knoarka’s shareholders and employees and for the development of alternative energy in the United States.”
Konarka is the latest in a series of solar bankrupticies, highlighted by Solyndra’s collapse last year. Many critics have framed these bankruptcies as a symbol of a failing technology and industry. That simply is not the case, however.
The latest findings from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Associations has found the U.S. solar industry installed a record number of panels in 2011. And, analysts expect the growth to continue this year — by 2016, the U.S.’s global share of the solar industry is expected to double from 7% to 14%.
Despite strong industry growth, several players such as Evergreen Solar, Stirling Energy, Solyndra, and now Konarka have seen the market price them out.
This scenario, too, was not wholly unexpected, analysts have been forecasting consolidation within the solar industry for several years — the market is glutted with manufacturers and modules. Additionally, the steep drop in the price of silicon has made margins even tighter for manufacturers.
Clean energy subsidies have become the focal point of the Republican party’s attacks on President Obama’s management of the economy. The real whipping boy has been Solyndra which went bust after receiving a $535 million loan from the federal government. Just last week, presidential candidate Mitt Romney hosted an impromptu press conference at Solyndra’s old headquarters.
Once again, Romney picked up the Republican talking points that Solyndra not only symbolizes the failure of President Obama’s stimulus plan, but also reflects a graver problem — crooked politics. However, as Dan Primack from Fortune points out, Romney has his facts wrong about Solyndra.
Ironically, Konaraka Technologies also received government funding — to the tune of $20 million — over its 11-year history. In fact, in 2003, shortly after he was elected Governor of Massachusetts, Romney doled out a $1.5 million clean energy subsidy for Konarka.
Considering the President is under fire for his financial support of clean energy technologies, don’t expect this fact to be lost on the Democrats.
As Senator Marc Pacheco (Democrat-Massachusetts) told the Boston Herald, “If Romney gets a little bit of heat because he participated in some of these policies at a point in time, it’s all fair in the world of politics. He’s cricizing on one hand, he’s got to take criticism on the other.”
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