Intel solar spinoff SpectraWatt files for bankruptcy

SpectraWatt, which had hoped to improve solar-cell manufacturing, files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing production problems and market conditions.

Solar-manufacturing hopeful SpectraWatt has filed for bankruptcy protection, blaming operational problems and difficult market conditions. It's the second U.S.-based solar company to file for bankruptcy this month.

SpectraWatt was spun out of Intel two years ago to manufacture silicon solar cells.
SpectraWatt was spun out of Intel two years ago to manufacture silicon solar cells. SpectraWatt

SpectraWatt was spun out of chip giant Intel in 2008 with a plan to improve manufacturing of silicon solar cells. But after raising over $90 million in private investment and receiving state aid in New York, it filed on Monday for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

In court documents, it said that it has been trying to sell its assets, including an idled manufacturing facility in New York, but has not been able to come to an agreement with creditors.

"Due to various operational issues, disputes with vendors and others, and most recently, deteriorating market conditions in the solar cell industry, the Debtor has idled its manufacturing facility, closed its operations in Oregon, retained only a skeleton staff, and has been marketing its assets for sale," said CEO and Chief Restructuring Officer Brad Walker in documents cited by the Times Herald Record.

The company in December shut down a manufacturing plant in upstate New York, blaming a slowdown in solar demand from Europe. It had moved from a location in Oregon because it received state incentives in New York.

SpectraWatt said it wants to auction off its solar-manufacturing equipment soon because it projects that in six months the market will be flooded with used equipment as other solar companies go out of business, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal.

Earlier this month, Massachusetts-based Evergreen Solar also filed for bankruptcy protection and today had its stock delisted from the Nasdaq. Evergreen Solar also blamed market conditions and its technology made it difficult to keep pace with steep price drops in solar-grade silicon and solar panels.

Whereas Evergreen Solar had once topped $100 million in annual revenue, SpectraWatt, which was founded three years ago, had never established itself commercially. Analysts say other companies which have high cost structures will struggle to be profitable or survive because low-cost manufacturing has made solar panels a commodity.

Related stories:
• Why solar start-ups need Uncle Sam
• Falling solar costs: Good for buyers, bad for makers
• Evergreen Solar files for bankruptcy
• SmartPlanet: Sign of bad decisions, not industry's demise
 

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