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Low-cost solar PV claims solar thermal victim

Germany's Solar Millennium, which develops utility-scale solar thermal projects, begins insolvency proceedings as a solar industry shakeout spreads.

A parabolic trough used for utility-scale solar thermal plants. Abengoa

Solar Millennium said today it has begun insolvency proceedings, the second German solar manufacturer to do so this month.

The company has been trying to sell its pipeline of large-scale concentrating solar projects in the U.S. But because Solar Millennium was not able to negotiate desired terms, it had to enter into insolvency to "save existing assets," the company said in a statement.

Solar Millennium is considered a concentrating solar power pioneer. The news of Solar Millennium's financial woes is the latest event in a wrenching industry shakeout that has caused bankruptcies at a number of companies and depressed earnings of remaining solar manufacturers.

BP Solar this week announced it is exiting the solar business after 40 years and Solon, another German solar company, last week announced it is insolvent.

In the case of Solar Millennium, it appears that the rapid price drop of solar photovoltaic panels--estimated to be more than 50 percent in the last two years--is the primary cause for its financial shortfall.

The company designs and develops large-scale solar thermal power projects that use reflective troughs to produce heat in areas of abundant direct sunlight. The heat produces steam to drive a traditional electricity turbine.

Solar Millennium earlier this year had to abandon its initial plans to use solar thermal technology at the huge Blythe project in California, which will be 500 megawatts in the first phase. Industry analysts suspected that shift was because solar PV was substantially lower in cost, making it easier to secure financing from investors.