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The Last of the German Solar Companies

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A large section of the German solar industry has already shut down or been bought for pennies to the dollar by Asian conglomerates such as Hanergy, LDK Solar and others. The remaining companies are also on the brink of collapse as they are not competitive with the super cheap low prices being charged by Chinese solar panel makers. German companies have failed to adapt themselves like the American ones and the last ones are now nearing bankruptcy.

Solarworld to close its US Oregon factory

Solarworld which used to be a top 5 solar panel maker with integrated crystalline solar operations has been facing liquidity issues for a long time. The company sold a 30% stake to Qatar to survive, however the company continues to bleed money. The German market is going to contract in 2013 after many years of expansion which will make Solarworld’s task even tougher. The company is now closing its wafer making operations in its US Oregon factory and will fire 100 workers. I┬áthink it will probably source wafers from China. Solarworld’s Asbeck has left it too late in my view. I think he should have sold the ownership a long time ago, but he stupidly did not get a strategic partner. Sunpower is in equally bad situation but has seen a huge stock price jump due to its Total partnership. Sunpower is steadily returning to viability and has revenue visibility over the next 3 years. Its system business is pushing up the margins, which had become negative due to solar panel prices falling.

It looks unlikely that Solarworld will continue in its current shape and it can only hope that Qatar buys a bigger stake, as it will need huge dollops of cash to survive. The Japanese boom has given the global solar industry a temporary reprieve. It might not last as zombie companies such as LDK and Suntech still exist. Once the unprofitable capacity is removed, then the industry can return to a balance. Companies such as Solarworld must die.

Gehrlicher also on the deathbed

One of the largest German solar EPC companies Gehrlicher has joined Conergy in the bankruptcy court, as the solar industry downturn has taken a toll. The company is one of the biggest EPC players globally with over $400 million in annual revenues and operations in USA, Brazil, Europe and India. However, like the other German EPC companies such as Phoenix, Conergy etc. Gehrlicher did not adapt to the changed industry landscape and now faces the current situation. These companies were the top solar installers till 2010, before the Asian and the American companies took away the marketshare from them. The weakness in the German market contributed to their current condition. Despite strong international expansion, their high cost bases and the low margin nature of the EPC business has brought them to bankruptcy.


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

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