Solar Shakeout Continues: Stirling Energy Systems Files for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

The falling cost of PV continues to wreak havoc on manufacturers of other solar power technologies. The latest casualty is Stirling Energy Systems (SES), maker of the SunCatcher, a 25-kW solar-powered stirling engine designed specifically for the utility market.

RenewableEnergyWorld.com learned late Tuesday evening that SES had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and was going into liquidation.

SES had deployed a pilot project using its stirling engines in early 2010 with the 1.5-MW Maricopa Solar Plant in Arizona. But the company was ultimately unable to compete with the cost of PV and filed bankrupty documents with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware last week. 

In 2008, SES was slated to supply its dish-engine technology to a huge 850-MW power plant in San Bernadino County, California. The project developer Tessara Solar, however, sold the project — known as Calico Solar — to K Road Power Holdings in late December 2010 right after it had received all necessary approvals from the California Energy Commission. K Road then announced that 750 MW of the 850-MW project would be developed using PV instead of CSP. K Road said that it would still use next-generation SES dish-engine technology for phase two of the project, which included the last 100 MW.

Also at the time of that announcement, in December 2010, Southern California Edison terminated the PPA it had signed for Calico Solar. 

With no offtake agreement, permits in flux and no financing lined up, the future of Calico is definitely in question. Sean Gallagher, Managing Director at K Road said his company is still evaluating where to proceed next. He stated however, that K Road “remains committted to the project and the region.” 

A source familiar with the project indicated that no more than two CSP projects would ever be completed (in Calif.) because the cost of the technology is just too high when compared with PV.

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Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. Today, in addition to managing content on POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference for the transmission and distribution industry. You can reach her at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com

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