Konarka Technologies, the organic thin-film solar company that recently filed for bankruptcy, was the victim of its own technology, not market conditions, according to a recent analyst report from Lux Research.
Earlier this week, the Massachusetts-based organic solar thin-film company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and announced it would cease all operations after failing to obtain additional financing. Konarka Chairman, CEO and President Howard Berke struck a hopeful tone in the statement and noted several large international companies had expressed interest in financing or acquiring the company.
In Lux’s view, Konarka’s thin-film printed solar modules couldn’t compete in the market on cost, efficiency or lifetime. In other words, it was (and still is) a bad investment.
“With 10 times higher costs and 10 times lower efficiency and lifetime compared to alternative solar technologies, the math never added up for Konarka’s Power Plastic,” the Lux report said.
Lux also disputes Konarka’s claim that its failure stemmed from the inability to raise more funding.
“Raising funding, more than solar module development, was where the company excelled,” Lux Research wrote. “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.”
Technically unsavvy investors, driven by the promise of cheap, printed solar modules that can be made colorful and transparent, rushed to put money into Konarka, the research firm said.
Some of Konarka’s investors, many which have cleantech expertise, might not take too kindly to Lux’s “unsavvy” assessment. Investors include Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Good Energies, 3i, New Enterprise Associates, Vanguard Ventures, Chevron Ventures, Massachusetts Green Energy Fund and Total.
Konarka raised $170 million from investors with an additional $30 million coming from grant funding, according to Lux Research’s figures. Konarka used the money to build a 1 GW manufacturing line. That line would never come close to that capacity, Lux wrote.
Lux also made a grim prediction for other companies developing organic photovoltaic products. “With a project organic photovoltaic market size of a meager $159 million in 2020, Konarka won’t be the last to run out of investors,” the Lux report said.
Photo: Konarka Technologies