The U.S. Department of Energy wants to prevent one of Evergreen Solar Inc.’s
solar panel manufacturing techniques from ending up in the hands of its Chinese
competitors—a group that’s blamed for crippling the U.S. renewable-energy
Agency officials want to place a legal grip on Evergreen Solar’s patented
technology, which is destined for the bankruptcy auction block along with the
rest of the Massachusetts solar-panel company’s factory equipment.
Evergreen Solar researchers developed that patented method, which cut
manufacturing costs by 33%, using nearly $3 million of the agency’s money and
within a government-controlled lab, according to court documents filed Friday
with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.
Federal attorneys moved to clarify the government’s ownership rights and
argued that those rights restrict Evergreen Solar’s ability to sell off the
technology, laying out the department’s intention to “prevent foreign entities
from gaining control over federally funded technology and competing with
American industry unfairly” in court documents.
A number of foreign buyers—mostly from China—are eagerly circling Evergreen
Solar’s assets, weighing whether to sign up to participate before the Oct. 26
deadline. An auction is slated for Nov. 1.
“Frankly the universe of buyers here has really been dominated by parties in
Asia, particularly in China,” UBS managing director Doug Lane told the court at
a hearing on Friday.
Foreign manufacturers that have found a way to make solar-panel products for
a much cheaper price are blamed for pushing the U.S.-based solar manufacturers
to the edge, prompting companies within the solar-panel industry—like New
York-based SpectraWatt Inc. and California-based Solyndra LLC—to also seek
Chapter 11 protection