End of the Road for Nanosolar
Clean energy has been a favored sector in the VC community for over a decade. Several things typically happen whenever our industry rushes as a group into a sector, including:
- Far too many companies are created to serve the available market
- The available market is estimated to be much larger than it ultimately turns out to be
- The market is estimated to mature at a much faster rate than it ultimately matures
- A bubble of valuation expands as investments flow into companies
- The bubble bursts long before those investments mature
- A small number of the companies survive and become significant players
We have seen this play out over and over again in many different markets, and it is happening now with solar. Most recently – Nanosolar, once a darling of investors and media, is in the process of selling off its assets and shutting operations.
See the coverage at GigaOM here (link) or after the jump.
Following layoffs, a low-valuation financing last year, and other struggles, Nanosolar is selling off its German panel assembly factory to an unnamed Swiss investor, and is bringing in help from Heritage and Maynards to hold an auction to sell off the rest of its technology assets, which will take place on August 13.
Nanosolar didn’t disclose the price of the deal of the German panel factory, nor the name of the Swiss investor, but a spokesperson told me that more information about the acquirer would be disclosed after the deal is closed. During the auction next month Nanosolar will attempt to sell off its solar production and manufacturing equipment and all related capital assets at its factory in San Jose, California.
The Swiss investor is buying “Nanosolar GmbH,” which a spokesperson tells me is the module manufacturing division of Nanosolar and was created in 2008. The Swiss investor will use the Luckenwalde factory to make something called a “cSi solar panel,” which they wouldn’t disclose much about.
While the Luckenwalde factory was being used for solar panel assembly under Nanosolar, it will now be used to manufacture solar modules, said a spokesperson. Nanosolar GmbH will also still keep the capability to assemble CIGS based panels, said a spokesperson.
As Nanosolar looks to sell off its assets, it also faces at least one lawsuit. According to a filing, the company is being sued by a vendor (Hellmann Worldwide Logistics) for allegedly not paying its bills. This is after reports surfaced that Nanosolar had cut as much as 75 percent of its staff earlier this year and raised $70 million from investors in 2o12, reportedly at a pre-money valuation of $50 million.
According to a release about the upcoming auction this morning, companies can learn more at the Intersolar conference in San Francisco on Wednesday:
Interested bidders are invited to visit the Heritage Global Partners booth #8636 for more information regarding Nanosolar’s assets during the InterSolar North America Conference July 9-11 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
At one point Nanosolar was valued at $2 billion, and the company has taken in at least $450 million in investment since its start in 2002. Nanosolar has been making thin solar panels out of a material called copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS). Nanosolar investors have included OnPoint Technologies, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Ohana Holdings, Family Offices, AES, the Carlyle Group, French utilityEDF and Energy Capital Partners, Lone Pine Capital, the Skoll Foundation, Pierre Omidyar’s fund, GLG Partners, Beck Energy, Grazia Equity, Benchmark Capital, as well as way back in the day, the Google guys, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
At one time in Silicon Valley, CIGS was thought to be the future of solar and startups like Solyndra, Heliovolt, Miasole, and others raised hundreds of millions of dollars to build the next-generation of solar tech. But the price of silicon-based solar dropped dramatically and made the economics of selling more expensive CIGS panels much more difficult. Most of these companies have gone bankrupt, done major layoffs, retrenched or been sold off in fire sales.