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Solar Struggles Continue: Q-Cells to File for Bankruptcy

Germany's Q-Cells, a solar industry giant that helped usher in a new era of solar energy, announced Monday that it will file for bankruptcy, but that it will continue to work to restructure.

In a statement released by the company, “the Executive Board and the preliminary insolvency administrator will work together to secure the continuity of the company within the insolvency proceedings.”

The move follows an unrelated higher court ruling on Friday that Q-Cells says limits its ability to move ahead with a debt restructuring plan.

The filing is the most prominent to date in the recent shake-out hitting the solar industry. The drastic drop in photovoltaic module pricing, the oversupply that has remained a drag on the industry and drastic subsidy cuts in Europe and beyond continue to put extreme pressure on solar manufacturers. Nowhere, perhaps, has this confluence of factors been felt greater than the headquarters of Q-Cells, which was the world’s biggest solar manufacturer in 2007 and 2008 before being overtaken during the rise of powerhouses coming mostly from China.

The company had worked to broaden its services in recent years. In addition to cell making, the company sells both silicon-based and CIGS PV modules. It also has moved toward project development, and in an earnings report the company said that that move has in fact boosted its economic health.

In 2011, Q-Cell’s production reached 783 MW, 717 of which came from solar cell production. The production of thin-film CIGS modules at German subsidiary Solibro accounted for 66 MW. That figure was down from just over 1 gigawatt produced in 2010. But unlike in 2010 when it was able to turn a profit, the company lost EUR 845 million in 2011. In March, the company said it expected 2012 to be another year of losses, but projected that it would return to positive earnings by 2013.

The company stock price, which hovered around $150 a share in early 2008, tumbled 50 percent to $0.16 per share on Monday.

Since August of last year, several solar companies, including Solon, Solar Millennium, Solyndra, Evergreen Solar and SpectraWatt, have filed for bankruptcy. On Monday, Solar Trust of America, the developer for the 1,000-MW Blythe project, also filed for Chapter 11.

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