Collapsing Prices Force SolarWorld Insolvency

The German firm says it can no longer operate as a going concern due to a wave of cheap Chinese exports that has slashed solar panel prices.
Matthew HellerMay 12, 2017
Collapsing Prices Force SolarWorld Insolvency

Germany’s SolarWorld, the parent of the largest U.S. crystalline-silicon solar manufacturer, has filed for insolvency, citing falling prices due to a wave of cheap Chinese exports.

As Reuters reports, SolarWorld has led the fight “against a glut of solar panels it says Chinese manufacturers are dumping on the U.S. market.” But after previously avoiding insolvency in 2013, it announced earlier this week that it had taken that step.

“Due to the ongoing price erosion and the development of the business, the company no longer has a positive going concern prognosis, is therefore over-indebted and thus obliged to file for insolvency proceedings,” it said in a statement.

CEO Frank Asbeck said prices for solar cells and modules have “decreased dramatically since the middle of last year” as a result of Chinese dumping.

“This is a bitter step for SolarWorld, the management board, the workforce and the solar industry in Germany,” he said of the insolvency. “The next few weeks and months will now decide the future of Europe’s largest and most modern production [operation] in the key industry of photovoltaics.”

SolarWorld Americas manufactures solar panels at a U.S. factory in Hillsboro, Ore., that employs 800 people. According to The Oregonian, “It’s unclear what will happen to the company’s Oregon operation, which taxpayers have supported with tax breaks worth tens of millions of dollars.”

Solar panel manufacturers have been buffeted by the renewed wave of cheap Chinese exports, caused by reduced ambitions in China to expand solar power generation. According to SolarWorld, state-financed manufacturers in China have enough capacity to supply 1.3 times global demand, and have developed excess third country manufacturing capacity to circumvent existing duties.

In the U.S., the price of solar panels has dropped by more than 80% since 2009, from $2.09 per watt to 37 cents a watt today.

Paula Mints, principal analyst with SPV Market Research, told The Oregonian that SolarWorld’s insolvency filing was sad but not unexpected. She said the global pricing environment is “deadly” and that it was nearly impossible for any non-Chinese manufacturer to compete given the level of government support there.

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