The future of several solar-power and energy-storage projects is uncertain after the filing of bankruptcy protection by a key player in the Canadian solar-energy scene.
SunEdison Inc.'s Canadian subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act on Thursday, following in the footsteps of the parent company, which filed for Chapter 11 protection in the United States in April.
In a court document, a director of the Canadian operation said the Canadian subsidiaries do not have enough cash flow to operate independently of the U.S. parent. The eventual goal is to sell SunEdison's Canadian assets – which have a book value of about $80-million – to interested buyers.
However, the company has $29-million in liabilities and legal claims against it amounting to about $92-million. The monitor in the CCAA process, Ernst & Young Inc., said in a court filing that it is uncertain what the "realizable value" of SunEdison's Canadian assets might amount to.
SunEdison was an active participant in the boom in solar-energy construction in Ontario over the past decade, building more than a dozen large solar farms that totalled about 350 megawatts of electricity capacity. It has been far less active recently, but is still involved in a number of high-profile projects.
One of these is a planned 44-megawatt solar farm at the now-closed Nanticoke coal-fired power generation station on Lake Erie. The project, which is 25 per cent owned by an arm of SunEdison Canada, was selected in March as one of a handful of clean-energy projects to get a power-purchase contract from the Ontario government.
Despite the bankruptcy protection filing by SunEdison, "we can still move forward," said Neal Kelly, a spokesman for Ontario Power Generation, which owns a majority of the Nanticoke project. The goal is to begin construction by the fourth quarter of 2017, he said.
Another key SunEdison project involves building three power-storage systems, using flow battery technology, that the company has agreed to supply to Ontario's Independent Electrical System Operator. IESO spokesman Chuck Farmer said it is "still too early to determine how this filing may affect this project."
SunEdison is also part of a joint venture in Alberta that is planning to build a number of solar-power projects, and it still operates and maintains a number of solar farms in Ontario.
In its filings, SunEdison Canada said it currently employs 23 people.
The financial problems at SunEdison's parent company stemmed from debt built up through expansion and acquisitions. Its most recent large deal, a plan to buy Utah-based residential solar installer Vivint Solar Inc. for about $2-billion (U.S.), fell through in March. But SunEdison also made many other purchases of companies that install solar panels and even branched into wind power
SunEdison Canada's unsecured creditors will have a chance to make claims under the CCAA process in the coming weeks. Among those creditors is Grand River Occupational Health and Safety Inc., a small Cambridge, Ont., company that was hired by SunEdison Canada to supervise and monitor safety at solar projects being built across Ontario. The payments that SunEdison owed to the company stopped about a year ago, Grand River president Wes Mazur said. "We're owed over $100,000," he said.
Secured creditors include Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Montreal, Xerox Canada Ltd., Ford Credit Canada Ltd., Ontario Power Generation Inc., and Enterprise Fleet Management Canada Inc.