Evergreen Solar Inc., a maker of electricity generating solar panels, this week filed bankruptcy with plans to sell itself at an auction in order to pay creditors owed $485.6 million.

Investors who hold more than 70 percent of the company's convertible senior secured notes have agreed to act as the so-called stalking-horse, or initial bidder, in a proposed auction for Evergreen's assets, Evergreen Chief Executive Officer Michael El-Hillow said in court papers.

The company, based in Marlboro, Mass., blamed the bankruptcy on increased competition from government-subsidized solar-panel makers in China, overcapacity in the industry and failure of the United States to adopt clean-energy policies.

Evergreen listed assets of about $424.5 million and as many as 5,000 creditors in its Chapter 11 petition filed Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del. Companies that file Chapter 11 usually try cut debt, reorganize and continue operating.

The company will fire about 65 people in Europe and the United States, including at its plant in Midland, Mich., which will be closed. A factory in Wuhan, China, built with a $33 million investment by the local government, will remain open while the company negotiates with its Chinese investors.


Renewable energy grants to farmers

Twenty-five Minnesota farmers and rural small businesses are getting almost $300,000 in renewable energy grants.

The money will help them install renewable-energy systems or flex fuel pumps, and make energy efficiency improvements. The funds come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Landkamer says the funding helps reduce America's dependence of foreign energy and boosts the rural economy.

The REAP program has helped more than 300 Minnesota farmers and small businesses cut energy costs. New this year is the ability to finance flex fuel pumps. The Glencoe Co-op Association, Viking Petroleum in Frost and Severson Oil in Winona are the first three projects in Minnesota to take advantage of the funding.

Over 900 projects totaling more than $11 million were announced nationally Wednesday.