The bumpy road for new green technologies continues. Earlier this year, the Telles JV to produce bioplastics collapsed because of a rising capital burden. The same problem now has knocked down Konarka Technologies of Lowell, Mass., a company that had a patented idea to use conductive plastics to make flexible solar cells.
Konarka Technologies filed for bankruptcy protection under chapter 7 of the Federal bankruptcy laws June 1. Under chapter 7 proceedings, the company’s operations cease and a trustee sells assets to pay off the bills.
Howard Berke, CEO of Konarka, said, “Konarka has been unable to obtain additional
financing, and given its current financial condition, it is unable to continue operations. This is a tragedy for Konarka’s shareholders and employees and for the development of alternative energy in the United States.”
Konarka was founded by Berke and by Dr. Alan Heeger, the winner of the Nobel Prize for work in conductive polymers. Among Konarka’s assets are hundreds of patents and patent applications in the field of solar energy as well as a manufacturing plant in New Bedford, Mass.
I was one of many reporters fascinated by the potential of conductive plastics in the solar energy field and have written about Konarka a few times.
Lux Research of Boston said it was not surprised about the demise of Konarka, and even issued a press release yesterday to say so.
“Despite ample funding, Konarka’s modules could not compete in the market on cost, efficiency, or lifetime, validating Lux Research’s history of ‘strong caution’ ratings.
“Driven by the promise of cheap, printed solar modules that can be made colorful and transparent, technically unsavvy investors rushed to invest in Massachusetts organic photovoltaic developer Konarka to the tune of $170 million, with an additional $30 million coming from grant funding. Konarka took that investment and built what it claimed was a 1 GW manufacturing line, although the line would certainly never come close to that capacity. With ten times higher cost, and ten times lower efficiency and lifetime compared to alternative solar technologies, the math never added up for Konarka’s ‘Power Plastic’.
The press release keeps piling it on: “Raising funding, more than solar module development, was where the company excelled. Finding market success in emerging technologies takes many factors, but a viable technology underpins all of them, something that Konarka never had and no credible path to attain. A viable market helps as well, and with a projected organic photovoltaic (OPV) market size of a meager $159 million in 2020, Konarka won’t be the last to run out of investors required to be as long on patience as they are blessed with money. Buyers and investors beware.”