The collapse of solar module prices that began in the second half of 2016 has not been kind to PV makers, particularly those in the United States and Europe. In the last few months, the toll this has taken has become more obvious, with PV Crystalox closing its U.K. ingot production and SolarWorld announcing shutting down its multicrystalline silicon business.
As the latest casualty, last night Suniva announced that it was laying off an unspecified number of workers across all areas of company operations, and at its facilities in both Norcross, Georgia, and Saginaw, Michigan. Suniva has not stated how many workers are affected except that it represents a “significant reduction in force”, however a notice filed with the State of Georgia indicates that 131 workers were let go in the state yesterday.
Additionally, MLive is reporting that the company’s plant in Saginaw Township is closed, citing Township Manager Rob Grose.
Suniva’s cell plant and headquarters are in Georgia, and the company additionally hosted 200 MW of annual module production in Michigan. The layoffs represent a rapid shift in direction for the company, which had planned as recently as last fall to increase its cell capacity to 400 MW in Georgia and held a ribbon cutting for a manufacturing expansion at its facilities last December.
Only three months later, Suniva ordered a “temporary” shutdown of its Georgia plants, with sources telling the Atlanta Business Chronicle that vendors were not being paid.
Suniva is citing Asian manufacturing overcapacity and an “ongoing influx of foreign imports” as factors driving down domestic U.S. prices and leading to the market difficulty that it finds itself in. This is a curious position given that Suniva was acquired by Chinese cell maker Shunfeng, which is part of Hong Kong-based clean energy mogul Chen Kin Ming’s Asia Pacific Resource Development Investments, in early 2016.
Suniva declined to provide additional details to pv magazine, such as the total number of workers it was letting go. Additionally, no WARN Act notice has been filed in Michigan, however Suniva did file for retraining assistance for 20 workers in February through the state.
Update: This article was updated at 4:05 PM EST on March 30, 2017 when the State of Georgia informed pv magazine of the number of workers laid off in that state. The article was updated again at 5:30 PM EST to include information on the closure of Suniva’s module plant in Michigan.