Solar Company Set To Lose Lawsuit Worth $770 Million

( Vaclav Volrab)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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A U.S. Judge’s decision to prevent a lawsuit from going to a trial by jury could cost Germany-based SolarWorld $770 million.

The judge’s decision will prevent the case from going to a jury trial, meaning that he alone will make a decision on the case. That’s bad news for SolarWorld, since last month the same judge declined a request by SolarWorld to reopen evidence gathering. The judge instead demanded the company submit no more than 10 pages of written evidence.

If SolarWorld loses, the consequences could be dire, even “threatening the continued existence” of the company, according to the company’s annual report. The suit’s damages exceed the SolarWorld’s annual sales of $760 million, and is four times the amount of cash the company has on hand. Solarworld is also about $242 million in debt.

“A date on which such judgement will be announced has not yet been set by the court,” SolarWorld said in a Thursday statement.“If the court should decide in favor of the plaintiff, SolarWorld Industries Sachsen GmbH will appeal against this judgment of the first instance in the United States.”

A ruling against SolarWorld would increase the chances of a settlement involving other litigation, according to PVTech, which has closely tracked the case. SolarWorld recently lost another recent court case in Michigan.

Solar power and other green energy in Germany is facing a serious crisis as the country’s government voted last Friday to sharply cut back on subsidies and other financial incentives due to the strain wind and solar power placed on the country’s electricity grid.

Germany’s government plans to replace most of the subsidies for local green energy with a system of competitive auctions where the cheapest electricity wins. The average German pays 39 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity due to intense fiscal support for green energy. The average American only spends 10.4 cents per kilowatt-hour.

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Andrew Follett