GreenTech Pastures Not So Green

Last Updated Mar 10, 2009 4:26 PM EDT

With venture funding and lines of credit quickly drying up, we're seeing early signs of desperation, consolidation and bankruptcy filings in the GreenTech space.

In a deal hailed as a coup by some and a panic-buy by others, high-flying solar panel maker First Solar agreed to pay $400 million for the solar energy projects of OptiSolar, a Silicon Valley company that couldn't raise its latest round of funding and recently laid off half its staff. Some analysts think First Solar overpaid in a rush to keep OptiSolar's coveted projects out of the hands of competitors SunPower and Suntech. All three publicly traded companies have seen recent declines in share price, between 20 and 50 percent, year-to-date.

Yesterday, New York-based biofuel maker Changing World Technologies filed for bankruptcy protection - just over a month after announcing a planned IPO. And VeraSun Energy, a publicly traded ethanol producer, filed for bankruptcy last October.

On the green car front, Silicon Valley-based electric car maker Tesla Motors continues its financial slight-of-hand by taking deposits for cars while desperately seeking capital with which to build them. On Sunday, Tesla's iconoclastic founder, lead investor and CEO Elon Musk announced a $40 million round of debt financing while he waits for a $200 million government loan.

Meanwhile at the Geneva Motor Show, GM unveiled Ampera, its Opel subsidiary-made plug-in hybrid, while Chrysler showed off its all-electric Circuit EV sports car. Both companies saw huge U.S. sales declines in February - 53 and 44 percent, respectively - compared with last year's numbers, and seek additional loans from Congress to maintain operations.

I first called the Alternative-Energy Bubble last August, but the financial meltdown has accelerated things. I believe we're just seeing the beginning of what will surely be a huge shakeout, irrespective of President Obama's stimulus plan. What do you think?

[Image courtesy of First Solar]