SunEdison, a worldwide developer of green-energy projects, including several proposed commercial solar arrays on Long Island, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Thursday, citing debt of $16.1 billion.
The Maryland Heights, Maryland, company, which last month confirmed it had received a subpoena from the U.S. Justice Department into “allegations of wrongdoing” by a former employee, said it secured up to $300 million in new financing to continue operations as it restructures debt resulting from years of ambitious acquisitions.
The new funding, if approved by the bankruptcy court, will go to pay employee salaries, fund operations and to allow the company to “proceed with work on ongoing projects, both in the U.S. and elsewhere.”
Whether that includes at least four large, unfinished Long Island solar farms remains in question. A SunEdison spokesman could not be reached.
Mary Studdert, a spokeswoman for the Nassau County Department of Public Works, which is working with SunEdison on a solar project at the Cedar Creek sewage treatment plant, said Thursday the solar arrays are in place, but the project has yet to be connected to the grid.
The project awaits a technical test before it can be switched on, she said, but the county has been told by the primary local electrical contractor that the procedure “requires a significant engineering fee that SunEdison may not be able to [pay] given the bankruptcy status.”
Studdert said the contractor was “confident” that because the project is “essentially built and complete, SunEdison would either seek to energize” or sell it quickly.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said Thursday that SunEdison’s plan to build a 3-megawatt solar array on a 15-acre capped landfill in Cutchogue has not progressed. The company has already paid an $18,000 fee for an option on the land, but has not started construction nor made lease payments. “They bought the lease option and it sits there,” he said.
Russell said the town is eager to work with SunEdison, or another company, to get the project built. “We’re an anxious party,” he said, noting the lease would have made the brownfield site productive and paid the town $22,000 a year.
In East Hampton, Supervisor Larry Cantwell said solar arrays planned for two town-owned parcels still have not progressed, and the town is considering its options.
“They have not performed under terms of the contract to this point, and I’m sure bankruptcy proceedings will further complicate that,” Cantwell said Thursday. “We’ll have to examine our rights, and if they violated the contract then we have cause for breaking it and moving to another vendor.”
Suffolk County has a contract with SunEdison to build a solar array at Gabreski Airport. Spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter wasn’t immediately available to discuss the impact of the bankruptcy filing, but last month she said the project “was not under construction at this time.” She said she hoped it would be by year’s end.
The Suffolk County Water Authority said it previously decided not to go forward with planned SunEdison projects.
In a release Thursday, Ahmad Chatila, the company’s chief executive officer, called the bankruptcy filing a “difficult but important step to address our immediate liquidity issues,” a reference to its cash shortage. The company listed assets of $20.7 billion on $16.1 billion in debt. SunEdison’s TerraForm Power and TerraForm Global subsidiaries did not file for bankruptcy protection.
Chatila said the filing will “facilitate our continued work towards transforming the company into a more streamlined and efficient operator, shedding noncore assets as well as taking other steps to help us get the most value out of our technological and intellectual property.”