Obama-Backed Solar Company Goes On The Auction Block

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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A judge approved September auctions for a government-backed solar panel company that could put up to $224 million in its coffers.

Judge Stuart Bernstein signed off Thursday on auction rules for two parcels of projects SunEdison was producing amid a slew of financial and legal problems. Those problems landed the company in bankruptcy.

Maryland-based company NRG Energy offered a bid of $144 million for a parcel of SunEdison’s solar and wind projects, creating a price floor for the auction.

Meanwhile, an affiliate of Edison International offered nearly $80 million for a second parcel going on the auction block in September.

The auction sales will likely fall $1 billion short of the amount the company needs to cover its debt, according to Bernstein. The judge called SunEdison “hopelessly insolvent” during a court appearance Aug. 12.

The SunEdison’s descent into insolvency was quick and devastating. Shares tumbled 95 percent during the past year, and the company’s market value fell from a high of $10 billion in July, 2015, to around $400 million as of March, 2016.

SunEdison and its sister companies received nearly $650 million in government subsidies and tax credits since 2000, according to a Good Jobs First report in March. It’s the 13th most subsidized company in the U.S.

The Obama-backed company benefited from an infusion of $4.6 million in subsidies from the Department of Energy and Department of the Treasury.

The company’s shortfall could be even larger, if one-time partner Vivint Solar manages to win a $1 billion payout from a failed buyout bid by SunEdison. Vivint sued SunEdison for breach of contract after the latter company’s financials turned south.

“Frankly, we believe we were misled,” Vivint lawyer Steven M. Schatz told Bernstein at Thursday’s hearing. “We showed up and were ready to get married and they said, ‘Sorry.’”

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