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Solar company warns it may close

Evergreen is low on cash as orders slip and prices fall

By Todd Wallack and Erin Ailworth
Globe Staff / May 13, 2011

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Evergreen Solar Inc., which has closed its factory in Devens, warned yesterday that it is low on funds and in danger of going out of business.

In documents filed with securities regulators yesterday, Evergreen said there is “substantial doubt’’ about its ability to “continue as a going concern’’ over the next 12 months, in part because it had “significant’’ cancellations of orders for its products. It also said the market for solar products is worsening.

Evergreen also expects to get less money than it had hoped from the liquidation of the Devens facility, the documents show. The company, which burned through more than $30 million in the first quarter of 2011, had $33 million left at the end of April.

An Evergreen spokesman could not be reached late yesterday.

The company has struggled for several years, trying to compete with manufacturers in China. It has also been hampered by the larger issues of falling demand — and falling prices — in the industry.

Yesterday, Evergreen said there was a “continued rapid deterioration’’ in both demand for solar products and in selling prices.

The company reported a $33.4 million net loss for the first quarter of 2011, compared to a $24 million loss for the same period last year. Its stock closed at $1.41 yesterday, up a penny.

In March, Evergreen shut its Devens manufacturing facility at the former military base and eliminated about 800 jobs. The company has expanded its manufacturing operations in China, where it has received financial support from the government, and where production costs are much lower.

It continues to operate a filament plant in Michigan.

As a result of the Devens closing, the state of Massachusetts initiated the elimination of a property tax break it had given the company to help it build the plant there.

The board of the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, which approved the tax incentive in 2007, voted yesterday to ask another state body to terminate the 20-year tax break early. The Economic Assistance Coordinating Council is expected to act on the request by the end of June.

The tax break was a key piece of a $58 million incentive package the Patrick administration awarded Evergreen Solar to build the plant in Massachusetts. In exchange, the Marlborough-based company promised to retain 310 existing jobs and add 350 new ones.

Initially, Evergreen added more jobs than promised, but then shut the plant after deciding it could not compete with the cheaper manufacturing in China.

Todd Wallack can be reached at twallack@globe.com. Erin Ailworth can be reached at eailworth@globe.com.