Solar component maker Satcon Technology Corp. (NASDAQ: SATC) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after markets closed last night. While not as well known as solar panel makers First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) and SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWR), Satcon provided a component critical to every solar PV installation -- a device called an inverter that converts electrical current from DC to AC or the reverse, as needed.

Competition among inverter makers has been especially strong, with over 40 companies jumping into the market. The best known are probably Enphase Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: ENPH) and Power-One Inc. (NASDAQ: PWER).

Satcon stock has fallen from nearly $10 a share to less than a dime in the past 12 months as the company has struggled to replace lost European business. The well-publicized bankruptcy at Solyndra and the less-publicized bankruptcy at Abound Solar, combined with the over-capacity problems facing Chinese solar makers, clearly indicate the precariousness of the solar market these days. Fewer solar panel installation projects means diminishing demand for inverters and other components.

Satcon conducted a 1-for-8 reverse stock split in July in an effort to hold its share price above a dollar, but that didn't help. Neither did closing manufacturing plant in Canada or firing staff in Europe.

Shares have doubled today, from yesterday's 52-week low of $0.07 to $0.14. The 52-week high is $9.92.

Paul Ausick

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