By Jennifer Runyon, Managing Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com
On June 1, Massachusetts-based Konarka Technologies, a thin-film solar manufacturing company, announced that it was filing for bankruptcy protection, bringing the total number of solar companies that have gone out of business in the past year to 16.
Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the company will cease to operate and a trustee will begin the process of liquidating the company’s assets in order to pay off creditors, who must submit their claims to bankruptcy court.
Howard Berke, chairman, president and CEO of Konarka called the filing a “tragedy” for the development of solar energy in America as well as for the company’s investors and employees. More than 80 employees will lose their jobs as a result of the bankruptcy.
Konarka received a $1.5 million grant from the state of Massachusetts in 2003, which was personally delivered by then-governor Mitt Romney. Romney is now under fire for the speech he made when delivering the grant in which he reportedly called for more money to be poured into the renewable energy sector. “The trust fund has been growing for years, and I believe now is the time to refocus its assets in such a manner that it can become a major economic springboard for the Commonwealth by focusing on job creation in the renewable energy sector,” he said. Several political analysts are calling Konarka’s bankruptcy Romney’s very own Solyndra.
Berke and Alan Heeger, the winner of the Nobel Prize for his work in conductive polymers, founded Konarka in 2001. The company is known for its photo-reactive polymer material invented by Heeger. Konarka’s proprietary material can be printed or coated onto flexible substrates using roll-to-roll manufacturing, similar to the way newspaper is printed on large rolls of paper.
Among the company's assets are over hundreds of owned and licensed patents and patent applications in the field of solar energy and a high-end manufacturing plant in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
According to the company press release, several large international companies including some from China have expressed interest in acquiring Konarka.
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