SunEdison, Inc. (formerly MEMC Electronic Materials) is a renewable
energy company headquartered in the U.S. In addition to developing,
building, owning, and operating solar power plants and wind energy
plants, it also manufactures high purity polysilicon, monocrystalline
silicon ingots, silicon wafers, solar modules, solar energy systems,
and solar module racking systems. Originally a silicon-wafer
manufacturer established in 1959 as the
Monsanto Electronic Materials
Monsanto sold the company in 1989.
It is one of the leading solar-power companies worldwide, and with its
acquisition of wind-energy company
First Wind in 2014,
the leading renewable energy development company in the world. In
SunEdison sold off its subsidiary
marking the completion of SunEdison, Inc.'s transition from a
semiconductor-wafer company to a dedicated renewable-energy
Following years of major expansion and the announcement of the intent
– which eventually fell through – to acquire the
residential-rooftop solar company
Vivint Solar in 2015, SunEdison's
stock plummeted and its more than $11 billion in debt caused it
to file for
Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on April 21,
1.3 Change of ownership
1.4 Solar market entry
1.5 Acquisition of SunEdison
1.6 Name change
5 External links
The establishment of
Monsanto Electronic Materials Company (MEMC), a
silicon wafer–manufacturing division to serve the emerging
electronics industry, was announced on August 6, 1959, as an arm of
the U.S.-based multinational corporation Monsanto. In February 1960
MEMC started production of 19mm silicon ingots at its location in St.
Peters, Missouri, 30 miles west of Monsanto's headquarters in St.
Louis. As one of the first companies to produce semiconductor
wafers, MEMC was a pioneer in the field, and some of its innovations
became industry standards into the 21st century. MEMC used the
Czochralski process (CZ process) of silicon crystal production, and
developed the Chemical Mechanical Polishing (CMP) process of wafer
finishing. In 1966 MEMC installed its first reactors for
the production of epitaxial wafers, and developed
zero-dislocation crystal growing, which made large-diameter silicon
In the early 1970s, MEMC opened a production plant in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia, and sent its St. Peters–produced 2.25-inch ingots there
for slicing and polishing. In 1979, MEMC became the first
company to manufacture 125mm (5-inch) wafers; in 1981 the first to
produce 150mm (6-inch) wafers; and, in partnership with IBM, in 1984
the first to produce 200mm (8-inch) wafers. In 1986
MEMC opened its production and R&D facility in Utsunomiya, Japan,
to serve the Japanese semiconductor market, becoming the first
non-Japanese wafer maker with manufacturing and research facilities in
Change of ownership
MEMC experienced heavy price-pressure from Japanese competition during
the mid 1980s. Despite its success and increasing revenues, MEMC
had to account for losses for a few years, leading to the decision of
Monsanto, which was refocusing on chemicals, agriculture, and
biotechnology products, to sell the electronic materials
division. In 1989 the German company Hüls AG, the
chemicals arm of the German conglomerate VEBA, acquired Monsanto
Electronic Materials and combined it with Hüls' previous acquisition
Dynamite Nobel Silicon (DNS) to form MEMC Electronic
Materials. DNS already operated silicon wafer plants in
Merano and Novara,
Italy and integrated them within the new MEMC
Electronic Materials. Hüls supported the new subsidiary with
$50 million, for research and development and for manufacturing
expansion. In 1991 MEMC developed the first process using
granular polysilicon, which provided cost and productivity advantages
over "chunk" polysilicon. Four years later MEMC acquired
Albemarle Corporation's granular polysilicon production facility in
Pasadena, Texas, which had been producing granular polysilicon since
MEMC's stock began trading on the
New York Stock Exchange
New York Stock Exchange with an
initial public offering in 1995. The
IPO raised over
$400 million, which went to finance an aggressive growth plan and
repay some of the debt to its parent company, and Hüls/
a majority interest in the company.
The cyclical downturn in the semiconductor business in the late 1990s
hit MEMC hard. In 1998 the company reported a loss of
$316 million on revenues of $759 million. In June 2000
VEBA AG, still holding 72% of MEMC, was merged with VIAG to form the
E.ON wanted to focus on its core business of
electric utilities, and assigned
Merrill Lynch to sell
MEMC. Merrill was unable to find a buyer until MEMC
announced that it was on the verge of illiquidity in the middle of
2001. Finally in October 2001
E.ON was able to agree on a deal
with the private equity company
Texas Pacific Group (TPG), which
purchased E.ON's stake in MEMC for a symbolic dollar and offered MEMC
$150 million in credit lines. TPG restructured
MEMC's debt, increased its stake in the company to 90%, and cut one
third of its workforce.
MEMC returned to profitability following the appointment of Nabeel
Gareeb, who was CEO of MEMC from April 2002 to November
2008. MEMC's market share rose again and by 2003 it
reported positive earning figures. MEMC's sales topped
$1 billion in 2004, and it was number three in market
share. Through a secondary offering, TPG reduced its share of
MEMC in 2005 to 34%, and by the end of 2007, to zero.
Solar market entry
SunEdison Solar Testing Facility
In 2006 MEMC announced its large-scale entry into the burgeoning solar
wafer market, via longterm agreements to supply China-based Suntech
Power and Taiwan-based Gintech Energy with solar-grade silicon
wafers. Similar contracts followed with Germany-based
Conergy in 2007, and Taiwan-based Tainergy Tech in 2008. The
company cultivated short-term solar wafer customers as well.
By 2007, MEMC held approximately 14% of the solar wafer market.
Having returned MEMC to a foundation of profitability and having
helped it enter the solar market, CEO
Nabeel Gareeb resigned in
November 2008. Ahmad Chatila was appointed President and CEO
in February 2009.
In July 2009 MEMC and Q-Cells, which specialized in construction and
operation of photovoltaic plants, formed a joint venture to build
Strasskirchen Solar Park, a 50 MW photovoltaic plant in Bavaria,
Germany, with MEMC supplying the solar wafers and
them into solar cells. Both partners invested
$100 million each, in return for a 50%-each ownership of the
project. As planned, the plant was sold to an investment firm,
Nordcapital, after operations started at the beginning of 2010.
Acquisition of SunEdison
In November 2009 MEMC acquired the privately owned company SunEdison
LLC, North America's largest solar energy services provider.
Founded by Jigar Shah,
SunEdison had been developing, financing,
building, operating, and monitoring large-scale photovoltaic plants
for commercial customers, including many national retail outlets,
government agencies, and utilities, since 2003. The
company had pioneered solar-as-a-service, and the solar power purchase
agreement (PPA) for no-money-down customer financing. With
the acquisition of SunEdison, MEMC became a developer of solar power
projects and North America's largest solar energy services
provider. CEO Ahmad Chatila announced that "MEMC will now
participate in the actual development of solar power plants and
commercialization of clean energy, in addition to supplying the solar
and semiconductor industries with our traditional silicon wafer
SunEdison was purchased for $200 million, 70% in
cash and 30% in MEMC stock, plus retention payments, transaction
expenses, and the assumption of net debt.
Following its acquisition of SunEdison, MEMC also began to focus on
developing and acquiring advanced technologies used in the production
of low-cost, high-performance solar panels. It acquired the
California-based solar tech company Solaicx in mid 2010. The
acquisition included Solaicx's high-volume proprietary "continuous
crystal growth" manufacturing technology, which produces low-cost
monocrystalline silicon ingots for high-efficiency solar
In February 2011 Samsung Fine Chemicals and MEMC announced a 50/50
joint venture to build a polysilicon production plant in Ulsan, South
Korea. The plant was to have an initial capacity of 10,000 metric
tons per annum. As of late 2014 the joint venture, called SMP, is
85% owned by
SunEdison (50% by SunEdison, Inc. and 35% by SunEdison
Semiconductor) and 15% by Samsung, and the plant has a capacity of
13,500 metric tons per annum. By October 2014, the plant
began producing the world’s first high-pressure fluidized bed
reactor (HP-FBR) polysilicon, enabling sizeable reductions in the cost
of solar energy.
In 2011 MEMC also extended its solar-energy business. In June 2011, it
acquired another North American solar-power project developer, Axio
Power. Axio Power, founded in 2007, developed, financed,
and constructed large-scale solar projects, and had more than 500 MW
of utility-scale photovoltaic power projects in Canada and the western
U.S. In July 2011, MEMC established a joint venture with
Korea-based Jusung Engineering, to combine its proprietary Solaicx CCZ
monocrystalline wafers with Jusung's high-efficiency cell
manufacturing equipment to provide low-cost, high-efficiency solar
cells. In September 2011, MEMC acquired Fotowatio Renewable
Ventures Inc., the U.S. unit of Fotowatio Renewable Ventures, a
developer, operator and owner of solar power plants. The FRV
purchase added up to 1.4 GW of solar projects in the U.S. to MEMC's
In December 2011 MEMC undertook restructuring measures in reaction to
a cyclical downturn in its semiconductor business and a slump in the
whole supply chain of photovoltaic modules. The company announced a
headcount reduction of 1,300 employees (18% of the workforce), plus
capacity reduction and productivity increase for polysilicon and
In 2012 MEMC developed its Silvantis line of multi-crystalline
290-watt solar modules. With 1,000-volt UL certification, the modules
created considerable overall energy-production and systems savings on
solar projects due to the ability to be more efficiently wired.
On May 30, 2013, MEMC Electronic Materials changed its name to
SunEdison, Inc., and also changed its stock-market ticker from "WFR"
to "SUNE", reflecting the company's focus on solar energy. In
SunEdison formally separated its electronics-wafer business
from its solar-wafer and solar-energy business. SunEdison
Semiconductor, Ltd. spun off in an
IPO on the NASDAQ under the ticker
"SEMI", with SunEdison, Inc. maintaining a majority stake as the
largest shareholder. The
IPO generated $94 million, used to
fund the company's growth.
In July 2014,
SunEdison created a yieldco subsidiary, called TerraForm
Power, Inc., with SunEdison, Inc. maintaining a majority stake as the
largest shareholder. TerraForm began publicly trading in an
IPO under the ticker "TERP". This
IPO of the
power-generation subsidiary spin-off raised roughly
SunEdison launched a second yieldco subsidiary,
TerraForm Global, in 2015, to manage renewable-energy projects in
emerging markets like Brazil, China, and India. This second
yieldco trades on the NASDAQ under the ticker "GLBL".
In October 2014
SunEdison announced the development of "zero white
space" solar modules, which eliminate wasted space on the solar module
surface. That month it also announced the implementation of
"high-pressure fluidized bed reactor" (HP-FBR) technology, producing
high-purity polysilicon up to 10 times more efficiently and with 90%
less energy used than non-FBR technologies.
In November 2014, with its subsidiary TerraForm Power, SunEdison
purchased First Wind, one of the largest wind power developers in the
United States, for $2.4 billion. The acquisition
added wind energy to SunEdison's capacity, and made it the leading
renewable energy development company in the world.
MIT Technology Review
MIT Technology Review named
SunEdison #6, and the top energy
company, in its annual "50 Smartest Companies" list. The review
SunEdison as "Aggressively expanding its renewable
energy products and building a business to provide electricity to the
In June 2015, SunEdison, Inc. announced its full divestiture from its
semiconductor business, the publicly traded company SunEdison
Semiconductor. The completion of the sell-off finalized
SunEdison's transition into a dedicated renewable-energy
Following years of major expansion and the announcement of the intent
– which eventually fell through – to acquire the
residential-rooftop solar company
Vivint Solar in 2015, SunEdison's
stock plummeted and its more than $11 billion in debt caused it
to face bankruptcy in April 2016. It filed
Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on April 21, 2016. To
continue its operations and pay staff, the company received $300
million in bankruptcy debt financing. It will continue operations
during bankruptcy. The debt financing money came from
first-lien and second-lien lenders. The bankruptcy court must approve
When it filed for bankruptcy, the company asked the court for an
independent examiner to audit the company’s recent financial
SunEdison requested that the examiner’s work start
immediately and finish within 60 days, and that the maximum budget be
Reuters noted that, comparatively, the 2015 independent
examination in the bankruptcy of
Caesars Entertainment Corp.
Caesars Entertainment Corp. took one
year and cost $40 million.
During the summer of 2015,
SunEdison was worth almost $10
billion, and in July 2015 shares traded upward of $33.44. On
the day of the bankruptcy filing, the company’s trading price on the
New York Stock Exchange
New York Stock Exchange was 34 cents per share.
According to the Wall Street Journal: “
SunEdison used a combination
of financial engineering and cheap debt to buy up renewable-power
projects around the world before the market turned sour last summer
and investors soured on its business model.” During the three
years preceding the bankruptcy filing,
SunEdison invested $18 billion
in acquisitions. During that time, the company also raised $24 billion
in debt and equity.
As of late April 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice is conducting an
investigation into the company regarding its financial practices.
Internally, SunEdison’s board completed its own investigation,
concluding that the company’s leaders were “overly optimistic”
but did not make “material misstatements” or commit any
In July 2017, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved SunEdison's
bankruptcy-exit plan and it is expected to emerge from bankruptcy
November 15, 2017.
SunEdison's solar materials group produces granular polysilicon,
silicon-crystal ingots, silicon wafers, and specifies the production
of solar cells and solar modules. It produces granular polysilicon in
purities usable in the solar and semiconductor industries. The
granular polysilicon is produced in Pasadena, Texas, and, through a
joint venture with Samsung and
SunEdison Semiconductor, in Ulsan,
Korea. The granular silicon is used for SunEdison's own
silicon-crystal manufacturing, and for sales to third-party solar and
semiconductor crystal-manufacturing companies. The division also has a
Portland, Oregon acquired from Solaicx in 2010, which
produces silicon-crystal ingots using the "continuous crystal growth"
technology, enabling the production of low-cost wafers for
high-efficiency solar cells. The ingots are sliced into wafers in
SunEdison and its subsidiaries and joint-venture partners
also manufacture the solar cells used in its modules. Its solar
modules are assembled by contract manufacturers in Malaysia, Mexico,
Taiwan, Korea, and China which use
SunEdison technology, meet
SunEdison's strict specifications, and use SunEdison's quality control
SunEdison's solar power group plans, designs, develops, finances,
underwrites, builds, installs, operates, monitors, and maintains
large-scale solar energy and wind energy systems and plants for
commercial customers, including numerous national retail outlets,
shopping centers, businesses and corporations; government agencies and
other public-sector customers; and utilities and other power
companies. Through an extensive dealer network, it also provides
complete solar systems and services for residential homeowners.
Through its financing services and partners,
commercial and residential customers the opportunity to install a
solar system for no upfront costs, with predictable cost-effective
energy rates over the life of the system contract. The company also
continues its longstanding research and development to create
innovations, cost reductions, and performance enhancements in
solar-energy systems technology.
SunEdison produces energy via its
numerous power plants, and also manages numerous solar power plants
SunEdison's subsidiary TerraForm Power is a global renewable energy
project development company. It owns and operates solar and wind
generation assets serving utility, commercial, and residential
customers. It owns and operates over 200 solar power projects. Its
scope extends to other clean power generation such as natural gas,
geothermal, hydro-electricity, and hybrid power generation.
SunEdison's subsidiary TerraForm Global is a globally diversified
owner and operator of clean and renewable energy generation assets in
high-growth emerging markets. It generates electricity through solar,
wind, and hydro-electric projects. The company serves utility,
commercial, industrial, and governmental customers. Its scope allows
it to extend to other clean-power generation assets such as natural
gas, biomass, and hybrid energy and storage solutions, as well as
transmission lines, and to residential in addition to commercial
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