GE exits US solar panel production

I tried to find this press release on GE’s website but was unsuccessful. According to a Dow Jones article, GE will close its only solar panel manufacturing facility in the US as prices for panels become cheaper.

GE’s crystalline silicone panels production facility in Delaware will reportedly stop by January and will completely shut down by the end of June next year. The plant employs 80 people and all will be laid off and receive severance and benefits packages.

The plant has capacity to produce 34 megawatts of panels annually, which could be expanded to 68 MW. It was reported that GE wants to sell 100% of the facility for cash by the end of the year.

BP solar was mentioned in the article as another traditional solar materials player that exited the US manufacturing industry. BP announced in March that it is closing down its module assembly activity at Frederick, Maryland, as well as its cell manufacture and module assembly facilities in Madrid, Spain.

The phase out of module assembly at Frederick will result in the elimination of approximately 140 jobs out of about 600. The plant continues its silicon casting, wafering, sizing and solar cell production. Dow Jones reported that the assembly plant is still on sale.

It is also interesting to note that while these traditional players are closing down shops in the US, foreign-based manufacturers are setting up plants such as Chinese panel manufacturers Suntech Power Holdings Co. and Yingli Green Energy Holdings Co. The drivers behind this move, according to the Dow Jones article, is concern on “Buy American” potential regulations, increasing shipping costs, and getting a piece of the stimulus funds for renewable energy investments in the US.

Suntech and Yingli have both filed applications for the renewable energy tax breaks under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

One Response to GE exits US solar panel production

  1. Pradeep 18 November, 2009 at 12:37 am #

    I see this from a perspective of big players trying to focus their clean energy portfolio and newer, specialized companies trying to make an impact. GE and BP are not fully solar PV companies, Suntech and likely Yingli, are. Part of the reason is costs, but the other, little-mentioned fact is that the big players have started to limit their exposure to fields which are outside their traditional expertise. In a rapidly-evolving field such as solar photovoltaics, having a wealth of IP at one’s hands helps gain competitive advantage, irrespective of the company size.

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