The Bright Side of 2013's Solar Energy Company Closures

The solar energy market is home to many companies, and as such is a constantly changing landscape. That was particularly true in 2013, which saw low-cost Chinese imports continue to drive solar energy prices down. 

Unsurprisingly, that turmoil led to the closure of more than a few companies. Below is a list of five solar companies that closed in 2013, along with explanations of what brought them down and whether they have a chance of coming back in the future.

Also covered is the idea that the news of these closures may not be as negative as it seems.

1. Array Converter

Array Converter’s aim was to use radio waves to convert solar power, Gigaom states in a 2011 article. To do so, it used amplitude modulation, which “involves using radio waves to send information” to convert direct current power derived from photovoltaic panels into alternating power, the type of power that flows on the grid.

The start up had a robust intellectual property portfolio that went to its investors when it closed.

2. Avancis

Avancis produced a solar module alternative made with crystalline solar cells. The company was a subsidiary of Compagnie de Saint-Gobain, a relationship that led to advantages for Avancis in terms of infrastructure and market penetration.

However, that beneficial relationship did not save Avancis from having to stop manufacturing its product — as of June 2013, production at its facility in Torgau, Germany was halted, as per pv magazine. The decision to stop work was the result of market prices for photovoltaic modules, which had sunk to the point that they were 40 percent less than the company’s production costs.

The company is ready to resume production should prices increase again.

3. Helios Solar

US-based solar panel manufacturer Helios Solar filed for receivership in September 2013, according to Greentech Media. In better times, the company was a member of CASM, a consortium that, after bringing an “epic trade case” to the US Department of Commerce, succeeded in implementing a 30-percent tariff on photovoltaic modules with solar cells made in China.

Helios was backed by venture capital investment and a $1-million loan from the state of Wisconsin. The company hopes to resume operations after a reorganization and potential sale.

4. Nanosolar

Nanosolar was an extremely promising company as far as investors were concerned. The company, which made solar panels out of copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS), received more than $400 million in venture capital.

However, when silicon-based solar prices dropped precipitously, end users became hesitant to purchase CIGS solar panels. As a result, Nanosolar officially closed in July 2013 after lay offs and extensive restructuring, auctioning off its assets at that time, Greentech Media notes.

Interestingly, the company’s German facility reopened in November 2013 as Smartenergy Renewables Deutschland. It will produce integrated photovoltaic modules and has plans to become a power producer, Solar Daily reported in November.

5. Tioga

Tioga was a company that offered long-term power purchase agreements for renewable energy to commercial, governmental and non-profit organizations, helping at all stages of solar use. It had many successes, including an installation that brought 3.3 megawatts of solar power to Union County, New Jersey.

It was well funded, but nonetheless closed due to the plunging cost of solar. It decided to sell its assets and made a successful deal with Sustainable Power Group in July 2013.

The bright side

As VantageWire notes, the bright side in these — and other — solar energy company closures is that they show that the solar market is moving towards consolidation. Essentially, the companies left standing in 2014 and 2015 “will be the stronger firms with viable business plans and sustainable value.”

On a different note, as is clear from the list above, many companies that closed in 2013 will have something of an afterlife as their assets are purchased by larger solar corporations, meaning that the work they put in will not have been entirely for naught.

Of course, how all of the companies still standing fare in 2014 is still to be seen. That remains for solar power enthusiasts to keep an eye on.