Ten K Solar, a Bloomington-based solar panel manufacturer, said Wednesday it will be "discontinuing its current operation" and terminating many of the services it formerly provided to customers.
The announcement comes less than a year after the company attracted its largest single equity investment — $25 million from a group led by Goldman Sachs. But Ten K Solar, which once employed 200 and reached at least $50 million in annual sales, said in a statement that the company has been caught in an industry downturn.
"The most recent 18 months have proven to be difficult for companies in the solar industry," the statement said. "Ten K Solar has not been immune to those difficulties as significant price pressures and scale have proved a significant barrier to profitable growth."
Prices for solar panels fell 30 percent in 2016 alone, the company said.
Ten K Solar, in its statement, said it "has decided to reposition the business to live within the constraints of these marketplace realities."
The company did not respond to inquiries on what exactly that means, or whether it plans to file for bankruptcy. It's not clear, either, how many employees will be left after the company shrinks.
In early 2016, Ten K Solar had more than 90 workers at its Bloomington headquarters and factory and about 110 more employees at a factory in Shanghai. The company has partly assembled solar panels in China, and finished them in Minnesota.
Among the more than 750 systems it has installed, Ten K supplied half of the large solar array atop the parking ramps at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Ten K focuses on solar arrays for commercial buildings.
The company, the oldest and largest Minnesota-based solar equipment maker, was co-founded in 2008 by tech entrepreneurs Joel Cannon and Dallas Meyer. Cannon stepped down as CEO last year, though he stayed with the company. Jeffrey Hohn, a tech executive who had previously led 3M's renewable energy business, was named as the new CEO.
The company did not respond to requests to speak to Hohn.
Ten K has attracted several rounds of private capital since 2010, raising a total of $61 million including the $25 million cash infusion last year. There had been talk about Ten K Solar one day going public.
Still, it's a small player in a global solar equipment business that's led by Asian manufacturers. The industry faces a supply glut that's eroding prices.
Sunviva, the U.S. arm of a Germany solar equipment maker, last month filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, laying off 130 workers in Georgia and closing a plant in Michigan. Arizona-based First Solar, one of the largest U.S. solar equipment makers, announced a reorganization last November that would cut about 25 percent of its global workforce of 6,000.
Ten K Solar hit an obstacle in 2015 when a component failed on about 100 of its solar arrays, mostly installed at Minnesota homes. The glitch curtailed solar arrays' output in late summer, usually a time of high energy production.
Many of those residential solar arrays had been purchased through Made in Minnesota, a subsidy program administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. To get rebates through Made in Minnesota, customers must buy solar panels assembled in Minnesota. Complaints involving the affected Ten K panels in 2015 were resolved, according to the commerce department.
Ten K Solar relied on state subsidy programs earlier in its life, but the company said earlier this year that Made in Minnesota had become a very small part of its business. In the most recent round of Made in Minnesota awards, 10 successful applicants planned to use Ten K's equipment, said Ross Corson, a commerce department spokesman. The program can involve several hundred awards annually.
Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003