THE FRIDAY NOTE: Satcon, A123 Systems file for Chapter 11 and the rest of the week's top picks
Oct 19, 2012 - Bad news on the green front this week as US firms Satcon and A123 Systems file for Chapter 11 protection and compatriot SunPower unveils 900 lay-offs mostly in the Philippines.
US solar inverter maker Satcon Technology Corp (NASDAQ:SATC) on Wednesday said it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The move is "necessary and prudent", president and CEO Steve Rhoades said.
Just a day earlier US lithium ion batteries maker A123 Systems (NASDAQ:AONE), whose products are also used to help integrate renewable power into the grid, also filed for Chapter 11. It became the next bust clean energy firm backed by federal grants and loans. A123 got a USD-249-million (EUR 191m) grant from the US Department of Energy in August 2009 to build battery manufacturing facilities at home.
SunPower downsizes Philippine operations
US solar panel maker SunPower Corp (NASDAQ:SPWR) on Tuesday announced that its would temporarily suspend production at half of the 12 production lines at a factory in the Philippines, also letting some 900 employees go. The cuts are part of efforts to reduce inventory levels and operational costs, and boost efficiency. CEO Tom Werner explained that the move had been triggered by overcapacity and tough conditions in the solar industry.
NREL unveils 18.2% with black silicon cells, Solar Junction hits 44% with CPV technology
On a more positive note, at the end of last week the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) said it had achieved 18.2% efficiency with its black silicon solar cells. The result was reached after the lab optimised the surface area and the doping concentration of its nanotechnology process.
At the same time on Monday US concentrating photovoltaics (CPV) firm Solar Junction lauded 44% efficiency at 947 suns concentration using its multi-junction CPV solar cells.
On the capacity side...
On Monday The Gansu Provincial Development and Reform Commission in northern China said it had given the go-ahead to the construction of a 3-GW wind power scheme that is to require around USD 4bn in investment.
Chile’s energy ministry said Tuesday that the local environmental authorities had greenlighted a 162-MW solar park proposed by Irish company Mainstream Renewable Power and a 204-MW extension of an existing local wind farm that is to be built by Spanish firm Ibereolica.
It became clear also on Tuesday that the start of construction of Kenya's 300-MW wind farm project has been postponed again. It is to commence in three to four months, the chairman of project developer Lake Turkana Wind Power Ltd told reporters.
On Wednesday US solar module maker First Solar Inc (NASDAQ:FSLR) said it had won a contract to build a 13-MW solar park near Dubai. The plant will be the first step of a planned 1,000-MW solar complex, which requires an investment of around USD 3.3bn.
Norwegian oil major Statoil ASA (OSL:STL) and utility Statkraft AS on Thursday unveiled the acquisition of an up to 560-MW offshore wind farm in the North Sea from UK-based Warwick Energy Ltd.