Once one of Germany’s biggest PV firms, Berlin’s Solon declared bankruptcy yesterday after 15 years in business. The news brought down solar shares with it.
Solon panels could soon be a collector’s item.
In the past few months, a number of solar firms in the US, such as Evergreen and Solyndra, have filed for bankruptcy, but up to now large German firms had been able to remain in business. Now, a major player has bitten the dust. Solon of Berlin – one of the few solar firms in Germany’s capital – has some 800 employees in Germany, the US, and Italy. According to a spokesperson, the 530 employees in Germany are affected, but the firm is looking for ways to restructure during bankruptcy proceedings.
The outlook is not good, however. The firm posted a net loss of more than 200 million euros in the first three quarters of this year alone and currently has some 400 million euros in debt. Unlike the US practice of issuing grants firm selected by government officials, Germany’s main policy to promote renewables – feed-in tariffs – does not pick winners, instead being available to all firms, including foreign ones. Nonetheless, a comparison with Solyndra is appropriate, for the German government did indeed give Solon 146 million euros in loan guarantees back in 2009, when the firm proved unable to get new loans under standard market conditions. In other words, this insolvency has been coming for more than two years.
The situation is similar at most other German PV firms with the exception of SolarWorld, which is currently fighting the Chinese competition for unfair business practices in the US. Market watchers say that PV firms from China have undercut manufacturers in North America and Western Europe for several years now, and Bank Sarasin of Switzerland – which closely monitors the PV sector – recently openly stated that SolarWorld could be the only German PV firm just a few years from now, as Renewables International reported.
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