This is what a solar shakeout looks like. This is also the last breath of what was once Germany's solar manufacturing dominance.
Last week we reported the bankruptcy of thin-film manufacturer Odersun. That follows the failure of CSP developer Solar Millennium and crystalline silicon module supplier Solon in December of last year.
"Q-Cells SE will file for insolvency proceedings on Tuesday, 3 April 2012, at the competent Insolvency Court in Dessau," according to the Q-Cells website, which added, "Against the background of the final ruling of the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court in the Pfleiderer case on March 27, 2012, the company had come to the conclusion that no going concern prognosis is given anymore. Following an intensive review of alternative concepts for the implementation of the financial restructuring, the Executive Board has reached the conclusion that a going concern of the company cannot be restored on a sufficiently secure legal basis. Therefore the filing for insolvency proceedings is legally necessary. The Executive Board and the preliminary insolvency administrator will work together to secure the continuity of the company within the insolvency proceedings."
Q-Cells has had some positive news on the CIGS front with its Solibro thin-film CIGS unit. That division shipped 66 megawatts of CIGS solar in 2011, "more than any other CIGS manufacturer not named Solar Frontier," in the words of MJ Shiao of GTM Research, who adds that the company had a relatively long history and a "fairly mature" coevaporation technology. Shiao sees that unit as ripe for acquisition.
Shyam Mehta, also of GTM Research, asks, "What happens to the Malaysia plant?" He sees the Germany plant almost certainly being closed, but suggests that the Malaysian facility is newer and has a much better cost structure.
Mehta has long foretold the difficulties awaiting higher-cost European c-Si cell and module makers. We've seen similar pain felt by REC.
The stock is trading at 13 euro cents. The stock sold for 38 euros per share when the company went public in 2005.
Last year saw Q-Cells auction off solar cell manufacturing lines, presumably from its European sites, as it transitioned to Asian manufacturing. Equipment included screen printing lines, furnaces, wet benches, lasers and a "Production Line to Manufacture 6" Multicrystalline Solar Cells with a throughput of approx. 14.3 million pieces/year."
Which of the remaining German solar suppliers will be the next to give up the ghost?