Wisconsin's Helios Solar Works has "temporarily suspended operations" at its 50-megawatt capacity c-Si solar panel factory in Menomonee Valley and filed for receivership, according to Milwaukee Public Radio. We've not heard back from Helios as of press time. The company had about 36 employees.
Helios Solar was a member of CASM, the SolarWorld-led consortium that brought an epic trade case to the U.S. Department of Commerce and succeeded in placing an approximate 30 percent tariff (antidumping and countervailing duties) on PV modules with Chinese-made solar cells. (Here's the full list of recently deceased solar companies.)
It's difficult to gauge the impact of a trade case one year after a decision.
SolarWorld of Germany has had layoffs, a financial restructuring, and continues to lose money with $108.6 million in losses on sales of $268 million in the first half of this year, compared to $453 million in sales in the first half of 2012. The Chinese continue to lose money on solar panels as well.
The trade case helped launch trade battles in other global regions and other parts of the solar value chain.
Helios was backed by $1.3 million in venture capital from Successful Entrepreneur Investors and Silicon Pastures, according to the Journal Sentinel, as well as a $1 million loan from the state, backed by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
A year ago, Steve Ostrenga, the CEO of Helios, wrote about unfair trade practices in a guest post at GTM. Here are some excerpts.
The evidence is compelling. Prior to 2011, American solar manufacturers were a top competitive player in the global solar marketplace with U.S. solar trade exports amounting to $2 billion worldwide. That changed suddenly last year when China’s exports of solar cells and panels surged 135 percent to $2.8 billion while the U.S. swung to a $1.6 billion global solar trade deficit.
Earlier this year, an investigation by the Commerce Department determined that Chinese manufacturers were not only guilty of illegally dumping solar cells and panels into the U.S. market, but that they also benefit from more than a dozen illegal subsidy programs.
Regarding the Preliminary Judgment by the Department of Commerce: This is a positive step forward for U.S. solar companies and the prospect of a stronger American solar manufacturing industry that can help more Americans back to work.
According to CASM in an earlier press release, "Helios is among a dozen U.S. solar manufacturers forced to downsize because of unfair Chinese trade practices."