Mission Solar Energy to close cell lines, lay off 87 employees

PV makers are struggling under collapsed prices due to a new round of global oversupply, and this weekend we got the first news of layoffs in the United States. On Friday, OCI subsidiary Mission Solar Energy told the 87 employees at the two cell lines in its factory in San Antonio, Texas that they will be let go.

Mission will continue to produce modules at the San Antonio factory, but will now source cells from an un-named Asian cell supplier. Employees will be kept on the payroll through November 30, and employees in good standing will receive severance and transition packages.

The company says that the closure will be permanent, and that it is in the process of figuring out the next steps in decommissioning the lines, each of which has the capacity to produce 100 MW of PV cells annually.

“We are discontinuing cell manufacturing operations completely,” OCI Enterprises Marketing Communications Manager Laura Waldrum told pv magazine. “We are focusing our efforts on module manufacturing.”

Mission Solar Energy has an unusual approach, producing high-efficiency products featuring bifacial and n-type monocrystalline cells in a market dominated by cheap multicrystalline silicon PV.

Through a deal with the city of San Antonio, fellow OCI subsidiary OCI Solar Power has deployed these modules in a series of utility-scale solar projects which the city’s municipal utility buys power under long-term contracts. However, the 400 MW projects which were contracted were supplied with the first few years’ output from Mission’s San Antonio factory, which has an annual module capacity of 200 MW.

Mission is now gearing its products for distributed solar markets, and at the SPI trade show three weeks ago in Las Vegas launched four new modules for the residential and small commercial markets, which will be available in 2017.