Solar maker Evergreen Solar files for bankruptcy

It’s not a startup, but it’s the latest member of the cleantech graveyard. On Monday, Evergreen Solar filed for Chapter 11 and announced it will be selling its assets, laying off 65 people and suspending operation of its Midland, Mich. filament factory.

Outright & Expensify Join Forces

Outright and Expensify, web apps that we’ve covered previously on WWD, are joining forces to make expenses management even simpler. As Jennifer reports over on GigaOM, bookkeeping app Outright today releases a beta version of the site that uses Expensify’s API, meaning that credit card expense data generated using Expensify can be automatically imported into your company’s books in Outright. If you’re in the Outright beta group you can try out this feature right now; everyone else will have to wait for the full launch, due in about two weeks’ time.
Outright is part of the Small Business Web, a movement that we’ve written about before, which aims to bring closer collaboration between web apps in order to make their offerings stronger. Expensify and Outright are certainly a very natural fit — hopefully more companies will be persuaded that joining together like this results in a better product.
What other apps would work well together like this?

Solar Companies Post Mixed Results

Solar companies are painting a mixed picture of the sector’s health this month, with some companies surprising with strong results for the latest three-month period, and others disappointing. In the latter camp is Evergreen Solar (s eslr), which on Thursday posted a loss in the December quarter on weaker-than-expected revenue, prompting its stock to tumble as much as 11 percent in after-hours trading to $1.97.

Evergreen said it swung to a loss of $52.1 million in the quarter, or 32 cents a share. A year earlier, it posted a profit of $788,000, or a penny a share. The loss included $23 million in charges related to the closure of a pilot plant, an $8 million writedown of equipment and $9.7 million in facility startup costs. The company had previously said it was closing a pilot plant in Marlboro, Mass., as it increased production at a new facility in Devens, Mass.

Revenue in the quarter doubled to $44 million, but came in shy of the $46.6 million that analysts had been expecting. On the positive side, Evergreen said it had $178 million in cash and short-term investments, up from $99 million a year earlier.

Gross profit was equal to 4.6 percent of revenue, down from 5.7 percent in the previous quarter and 28.1 percent in the same quarter a year earlier. The company said lower prices and higher costs related to the Devens facility accounted for the thinner margins.
Read More about Solar Companies Post Mixed Results

SpectraWatt Suspends Factory Plans, Expects Production Delay

Intel (s INTC) solar spinoff SpectraWatt has put its plans to build a factory in Hillsboro, Ore., on hold after being unable to get enough financing, The Oregonian reported this week.

CEO Andrew Wilson told the newspaper that SpectraWatt is searching for an existing building that it could retrofit for less, and it is considering leaving the state. He also said the change of plans will delay SpectraWatt’s first solar-cell shipments by five or six months.

The company, which was raising a $50 million round of funding led by Intel in June, said then that it expected to ship its first solar cells from a 60-megawatt factory in the middle of this year. SpectraWatt didn’t respond to requests for more information Thursday afternoon.

The setback is the latest sign of tough times for solar companies. As a recession is making capital scarce, analysts are predicting an oversupply of solar panels that could lead to a pricing plunge. Jenny Chase, a senior associate for solar at New Energy Finance, expects some 4 gigawatts of panels to go begging this year.

Read More about SpectraWatt Suspends Factory Plans, Expects Production Delay

Solar Stocks Start 2009 With Bad News, But Shrug It Off

Hard on the heels of a brutal year for solar stocks, the early days of 2009 are so far putting out a good share of negative news: sell recommendations from research analysts, a dire outlook from LDK, and Evergreen Solar shuttering a pilot plant.

Investors, though, are shutting their ears to the bad news. Evergreen was only slightly down and LDK ended Tuesday slightly up.

Or maybe it’s the case that the brutal selloff from last year was in part pricing in the news from this week.

Monday night, LDK LDK came out with its dispiriting guidance for the quarter just ended and for the coming year. It lowered its revenue guidance in its fourth quarter from a midpoint of $560 million to $430 million. Wafer shipments will fall from 265 megawatts to 250 megawatts, and gross margins will fall from 11.5 percent to 19.5 percent.For 2009, LDK sees revenue at a midpoint of $2.4 million, down from earlier expectations of $3 billion.

Early Tuesday morning, LDK shares tumbled as much as 11 percent on that news, but what looked like a short squeeze left the stock up 1 percent on the day at $14.99.
Read More about Solar Stocks Start 2009 With Bad News, But Shrug It Off

What’s It Like Looking for New Media Work Now?

Layoffs have become the dominant story as we near the end of 2008. After writing about the cold economic realities for companies that have had to cut staff, we wanted to find out what it was like for the people who are now unemployed. Just how bad is it out there for new media folks looking for work? We talked with three people at different stages of their job search to see what, exactly, they’re up against.

sarahlaneSarah Lane was with Revision3 for a year and a half before being laid off at the end of October. While she did a lot at the company, she was best known as the host of popSiren. I spoke with her just a couple weeks after she had been let go.

“It’s great to be unemployed sit in my pajamas for like five minutes,” Lane said. The problem she encountered is that even though there are companies interested in her, there’s just a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the market right now. “Some people have said ‘If I could guarantee that you had a job in a year I’d hire you,'” said Lane. Problem is, those companies can’t guarantee anything right now.

Read More about What’s It Like Looking for New Media Work Now?

Evergreen Solar to Barclays: Give Me Back My Stock!

Remember those tens of millions of shares that Lehman Brothers held in solar companies as part of convertible bond deals it underwrote? It seems Barclays PLC ended up holding them after it bought Lehman’s broker dealer business following the U.S. investment bank’s bankruptcy.
A couple of weeks ago, Barclays filed notice with the SEC to disclose that it now owned sizeable stakes of Evergreen Solar (s ESLR), SunPower (s SPWRA) and JA Solar (s JASO), which meant it was in a position to sell all of them into the open market and dilute the stocks just when the solar industry is facing what the New York Times called “big new challenges.” Read More about Evergreen Solar to Barclays: Give Me Back My Stock!

Power Users Guide to Google Chrome: Lifehacker

GooglechromelogoWith all of my MSI Wind benchmarking activities, I haven’t had as much of a chance to dig deeper into Google Chrome. Luckily, Gina Trapani over at Lifehacker has had the time. She put together one of the most all-encompassing early "Power User Guides" to Google’s new browser. Some of the tips and tricks are ones I’ve seen or posted on already, but there’s quite a few new tweaks and goodies in her guide as well. Some of the many topics covered:

  • Various hidden "about: " pages that offer useful under-the-hood information
  • Tons of keyboard shortcuts; many are shared from Firefox, but a few are unique to Chrome
  • Several startup switches to help you customize the browser functions
  • Bookmarklets, themes and other extras
Chrome is still lacking key functionality that use I everyday, namely the ability to mail a link to someone and a mechanism to easily add an RSS feed to Google Reader, but I anticipate those functions to crop up in the very near future. For now, I’m using it when I can simply based on ease of use and speed.

Evergreen Solar Stock Hot on $600M in Deals

Silicon supply worries and the slowing macroeconomy may have left solar stocks in volatile territory lately, but big manufacturing deals can still give a solar maker a boost on Wall Street. Yesterday solar panel maker Evergreen Solar (ESLR) said it signed two sales deals — one with groSolar and the other with Wagner & Co. Solartechnik — worth a total of $600 million The news lifted Evergreen shares to close at $12.30, up 20 percent.

This could be a new upward trend for the company, whose shares have fallen from a 52-week high of $18.85 reached late last December. In April, it reported a net loss of $25,000 for the first quarter of 2008, which was better than its net loss of $6.2 million for the first quarter of 2007, but still not in the black.

Things started to look brighter in May, when Evergreen announced panel supply contracts worth a $1 billion, causing analysts like those at S&P to reiterate their buy ratings. And now here’s this $600 million in deals.

iPhone: Does 3G Matter to You?

ScreenshotWhen I see folks like AT&T Mobility’s CEO say the iPhone “totally and completely mobilizes your data” now that it’s 3G-capable, I know we’re not quite living in the same world. Ralph de la Vega may view 3G as a ubiquitous technology, but spending a few minutes with the AT&T Coverage Viewer will convince you otherwise. Here in Evansville – 300,000 people – it would take hours for me to drive to the nearest 3G coverage. Overall, AT&T 3G is only in about 200 cities nationwide.

If you’re in one of those major metro areas, this won’t be an issue. But there are plenty of web workers who have moved to one of the empty spots on the map to improve their quality of life. Personally, I like the “work anywhere” face of web work and the freedom it gives me. A dependency on a tool that only works in highly populated areas doesn’t attract me. How about you?