Greentech Media just broke the story on thin film solar aspirant Abound Solar halting its operations. GTM Research's Solar Analysts weigh in on the sad announcement here:
Abound Solar's imminent closure is an unfortunate but very real consequence of the continued slide in crystalline silicon (c-Si) pricing and the increased competition for limited global demand of solar modules. Abound was still in the earlier stages of technology and commercial development, and despite at least $300 million in private investment and $70 million drawn from its $400 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee, simply didn't have the cost and downstream reach to survive in the tumultuous solar market.
C-Si module prices, which fell by nearly 50 percent over the course of 2011, will continue to drop -- possibly reaching $0.76/W by the end of this year (vs. $1.04/W in Q4 2011). In the current pricing environment, module manufacturers need to be well capitalized in order to survive the shakeout. Abound suspended commercial production early in the first quarter of 2012 to retool with a higher efficiency product by the end of the year. Today's announcement indicates that its cash preservation survival strategy was too late and not aggressive enough.
Abound's cadmium telluride (CdTe) product had little differentiation from First Solar and also suffered from lower efficiency. Produced at lower scale and likely a higher cost, the chance for survival in the current market environment was always slim. Unfortunately, Abound and other module manufacturing closures, including thin film and c-Si suppliers alike, is still just the tip of the iceberg. GTM Research forecasts at least 21 gigawatts of PV module manufacturing capacity to retire by the end of 2015. (Read more about that here.)