Dark times fall on solar sector
At least seven solar-panel manufacturers have filed for bankruptcy in recent months
By Yuliya Chaernova
Wall Street Journal
Long viewed as a remedy for the world's dependence on fossil fuels, the solar industry is dimming as makers of panels used to harness the sun continue to fall by the wayside.
Bankruptcies, plummeting stock prices and crushing debt loads are calling into question the viability of an industry that since the 1970s has been counted on to advance the U.S.—and the world—into a new energy age.
Global demand for solar power is still growing—about 8 percent more solar panels will be installed this year compared with 2010, according to Jefferies Group analysis—but it is expected to flat-line next year.
At the heart of the industry woes are swiftly falling prices for solar panels and their components—polysilicon, wafers, cells and the modules themselves. The reason is simple: There are simply too many manufacturers trying to sell their wares.
Over the past several months, at least seven solar-panel manufacturers have filed for bankruptcy or insolvency, including two German companies in the past week—Solar Millennium AG and Solon SE—and, most notably, Solyndra LLC, the Fremont, Calif., company embroiled in a criminal investigation into whether the company defrauded the U.S. government.
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