Report: Konarka’s failure wasn’t a solar market problem

Solar startup Konarka’s bankruptcy, announced last week, wasn’t just the latest case of the solar industry being hit by the dropping cost of silicon, and cheap modules and panels from China. The company’s technology was just weak and “could not compete on cost, efficiency, or lifetime,” says Lux Research.
Lux Research says for at least three years it’s given Konarka a “strong caution” rating for its technology that was “ten times higher cost, and ten times lower efficiency and lifetime compared to alternative solar technologies.” More than technology development, Konarka’s skill was in fund raising, says Lux Research, and its “underlying technology was never market ready.” Lux writes:

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.

We, too, have long been skeptical of Konarka. It’s amazing that Lux points out that Konarka finally went bankrupt “in the middle of yet another funding round.” Here’s a list of investors that Konarka managed to raise money from: Konica Minolta, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Good Energies, 3i, Mackenzie Financial Corp., Pegasus Capital, Asenqua Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Vanguard Ventures, Chevron Ventures, Massachusetts Green Energy Fund, NGEN Partners, Angeleno Group, Total, Good Energies, and 3i.