According to SK Innovation on January 20, HelioVolt put its manufacturing assets up for auction on January 14. The assets for sale included manufacturing equipment for copper indium gallium selenium (CIGS) solar modules at HelioVolt’s plant in Austin, Texas. Prior to the auction, SK tried to sell off its share of the company, but when it was unsuccessful, it decided to move forward with liquidation.
SK Innovation jumped into the solar energy business by acquiring 47.9 percent of the company, which owns CIGS solar module manufacturing technology, by injecting US$50 million. So far, SK invested US$76 million in the company.
An official at SK Innovation said, “As the solar panel market sinks into stagnation, we could not find any party claiming our share in the company and we are now in due process for its liquidation.”
The thin-film CIGS panel market in which HelioVolt owns its proprietary manufacturing technology is dominated by First Solar of the U.S. and Solar Frontier of Japan, with the American company holding the lion’s share of the market with a 90 percent share.
From the latter half of 2011, as more expensive but more efficient crystalline solar cells flooded the market, thin-film photovoltaic panels lost price competitiveness.
Industry observers see SK’s failure in the solar energy business resulting not only from the market recession, but more importantly from SK’s failure to properly analyze market developments and trends.
By John Choi (email@example.com)