SoloPower, SolarWorld among companies 'likely to struggle' in 2012

A Lux Research analyst says SoloPower's thin-film solar technology is nothing more than a niche product.

A Lux Research analyst says SoloPower's thin-film solar technology is nothing more than a niche product.

SoloPower and SolarWorld were named among six companies most likely to hit a rough patch in 2012, the year following one that drew a number of formerly high-flying solar companies — Solyndra, SpectraWatt and Evergreen Solar to name three — into bankruptcy.

Matt Feinstein, an analyst with Lux Research, wrote an article for PV magazine and identified the solar companies he sees as most likely to hit rough waters financially in the year to come. In addition to SoloPower, which is outfitting a $340 million production facility in North Portland and expect to start hiring soon, and SolarWorld, which run North America's largest solar manufacturing facility in Hillsboro, Feinstein identified Nanosolar, Abound, Oerlikon and Suntech Power among those to keep a wary eye on.

Feinstein's concern with SoloPower, which has been successful in fundraising and closed a $20 million round of convertible debt in December, is that its technology, which puts solar cells on flexible substrates, is a niche market at best.

"When most other CIGS companies put flexible substrates and building-integrated (BIPV) applications on the back burner, SoloPower forged ahead with them," Feinstein wrote.

As for SolarWorld, Feinstein takes a skeptical view of the company's tactic of leading a trade war against China to combat cheap Chinese imports.

"SolarWorld's lead role in the U.S. petition against low-cost Chinese manufacturers is a clear act of desperation," Feinstein wrote. "Indeed, imposing a tariff on Chinese modules would significantly hurt demand in the U.S., as evidenced by the installers and developers that have publically opposed the SolarWorld petition."

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