SolarWorld shuts solar panel factory in California

The solar factory shutdown trend continues with the announcement by Germany-based SolarWorld on Friday that it will shutter one of its factories in the United States to cut costs.

The company issued a statement to say it will close the solar panel assembly plant in Camarillo, Calif. SolarWorld has a larger manufacturing operation in Hillsboro, nearly Portland, Ore., and says it will focus on running that complex, which also has a solar panel assembly line. The company said it will keep the sales and distribution business at the Camarillo location open.

The cost reduction plan also includes shutting down some older production equipment at its flagship manufacturing operation in Germany. That will involve letting go some temporary workers.

SolarWorld didn’t disclose how many workers in both California and Germany will be affected by its decision to cut the manufacturing operation. The company also didn’t disclose the production capacities of its plants. It said in the past the California plant could produce 150 megawatts of solar panels.

The company gets silicon from a joint venture and then runs its own equipment to make wafers, which are then turned into solar cells. A solar panel is a collection of the cells. The company makes wafers, cells and panels at both the German and Oregon operations.

SolarWorld made its announcement at a time when other solar manufacturers are closing factories and filing bankruptcies. In fact, the month of August was filled with bad news from solar companies as the industry struggled to survive amidst an oversupply of solar panels and fast-falling prices. Wholesale prices for silicon solar panels, the most common kind in the market today, have fallen by 25 percent this year to reach around $1.20-1.35 per watt, said Shyam Mehta, a senior analyst at GTM Research.

Just earlier this week, Solyndra said it could no longer compete in a market with fast-falling prices and plans to file for Chapter 11. The California company said it had suspended manufacturing and laid off 1,100 full-time and temporary workers.

Two other companies, SpectraWatt and Evergreen Solar(s ESLR), announced their Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings last month. SpectraWatt is private, and its investors included Intel(s INTC). Evergreen’s stock has fallen dramatically in the past two years as the company sought to move manufacturing to China to cut costs.

Solon, another German company, announced the closure of its 60MW solar panel factory in Arizona in August. The company made the move to cut costs. The closure will cut 60 jobs.

Photo courtesy of SolarWorld