“To be honest this is not a surprise,” said Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Jenny Chase. “Most solar companies in SolarWorld’s age cohort have gone bankrupt. Solar manufacturing is a viciously competitive business, and there are some latest-mover advantages – and it was mainly a cash injection from Qatari investors a few years back that kept it afloat.”
Josefin Berg, from IHS Markit, noted that rapid cell and module price declines in Q3 2016 had “swept away” any progress had made the previous year. “Module prices dropped by 22% in the second half of 2016, and it was still hard to find buyers,” said Berg. “Average gross margins dropped to levels not seen since 2014.”
Berg said that in light of U.S. producer Suniva’s recent bankruptcy, that there remains the potential that new trade barriers to Chinese imports in the U.S. market may be put in place.
“It will be interesting to see what will happen with SolarWorld’s U.S. operations, now after the Suniva bankruptcy,” said Berg. “In that case, this bankruptcy could have wider implications on the solar supply chain.”
BNEF’s Chase, who heads up the analyst group’s solar operations, said that project developers, wholesalers, and installers in the U.S. and Europe would likely be hoping that with SolarWorld’s departure, tariffs may be lifted.
“Buyers of solar modules in the EU and U.S. must be hoping for an end to the trade wars, now that the main plaintiff in the trade cases is presumably out,” said Chase.