Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mass Layoffs Hammering the Solar Power Industry


Green energy is the wave of the future that is going to save our economy by being a huge driver for employment. Or so says the bullshit propaganda. But despite oil prices hovering in the low triple digits, the solar industry is having huge problems, as reported by Forbes:
Japanese solar company Sanyo plans to lay off about 140 employees in California, or about 40 percent of its manufacturing workforce in the United States, as it shifts its strategy in order to compete with large rivals, particularly those from China.

Sanyo is closing the 30-megawatt factory in Carson that makes silicon ingot and wafers – the materials for making solar cells – after setting up shop there in 2003. Production will stop at the end of March to coincide with the end of the company’s fiscal year, said Aaron Fowles, a Sanyo spokesman, on Friday. The company plans to liquidate the assets and close the factory for good in October.
But wait...there's more:
The planned factory shutdown by Sanyo follows a series of layoffs and solar factory closures in the United States and elsewhere over the past year. Manufacturers have struggled to survive when there is a glut of solar panels and the wholesale prices for them have fallen by 40-50 percent. The glut is partly caused by the lowering of government subsidies in big solar markets such as Germany and Italy in 2011.

Earlier this month, California-based Amonix said it was letting go 200 of the roughly 300 workers at its North Las Vegas factory, which it opened last year with a promise to bring lots of local jobs. Amonix said it needed to cut staff so that it could modify the production equipment and start making a new line of solar energy systems later this year. Some workers there told the Las Vegas Sun that they didn’t know their employment would be so temporary.

Also earlier this month, Boston-based Satcon Technology, which makes power conversion equipment for solar electric systems, said it was laying off 35 percent of its workforce and shutting down a factory in Canada. Two German manufacturers who set up factories in the United States, SolarWorld and Solon, have shuttered some of the production here.

Several manufacturers who didn’t have enough money or unable to reduce their costs quick enough to stay in business have filed for bankruptcies, including Solyndra, SpectraWatt and Evergreen Solar.
So what's the problem?
Some manufacturers blame their Chinese rivals for the pileup of unused solar panels and the big drop in prices. SolarWorld, which runs a solar panel factory in Oregon, joined six other manufacturers in filing a trade complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce last October. The companies contend that Chinese manufactures are selling their products at prices far below the cost of producing them, and they are able to do that because they receive heavy and unfair subsidies from the Chinese government.
The fact that Chinese workers are willing to do the job for a fraction of what Americans are paid is no doubt a factor, as is the fact that China essentially has no environmental regulations. Look, we can argue all day about whether large scale solar power really has the potential to replace fossil fuels (as I've said before, I'm not a subscriber to that theory). Nevertheless, even if it could be part of the answer, I think it is clear from this story that as long as we have unrestricted globalization, what solar power will certainly not be able to do is create a substantial number of new good paying jobs in this country as politicos like President Hopey-Changey would like us to believe.

Addendum: After composing this post, I found another story about an impending solar company bankruptcy, this time in Delaware. Here is Canadian Business with the details:
A Delaware-based solar power company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

New Castle-based Suntricity Power listed estimated assets of between half a million and a million dollars, and estimated liabilities of between $100,000 and $500,000 in its filing Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington.

Suntricity, founded in 2007, designs, sells and installs solar energy systems for residential and commercial customers.


Bonus: "Who loves the sun? Not everyone"

2 comments:

  1. this country as politicos like President Hopey-Changey would like us to believe.
    how to build solar panels cheap

    ReplyDelete
  2. Suntricity Power was a small installer that employed less than 20 people and filed for bankruptcy because of mismanagement of funds. It is not really relevant to this article as other installers continue to live on in Delaware

    ReplyDelete