SolarWorld Americas to (re-)hire up to 200 workers

Fortunes appear to be changing for SolarWorld Industries Americas. After the bankruptcy of its parent company in May, SolarWorld Americas was facing a difficult future, and proactively provided notice to all of its employees that they may be laid off, as well as putting the company up for sale.

In terms of concrete impacts, the company laid off 360 workers in July as part of a series of layoffs which brought the factory down to only 300 employees, from a high of 800. Additionally, at least one of SolarWorld’s local suppliers went out of business.

However, following a finding of “serious injury” by the U.S. International Trade Commission, SolarWorld has turned over a new leaf, and today announced that it would hire up to 200 employees by next May. the company notes that some of these will be former employees who were laid off previously.

“Our struggle has always been about keeping alive the pioneering U.S. solar-technology industry as well as its workforce, from Ph.D. scientists to line workers,” said Juergen Stein, CEO and president of SolarWorld Americas.  “With relief from surging imports in sight, we believe we can rev up our manufacturing engine and increase our economic impact.”

SolarWorld’s Oregon factory was ramping towards a capacity of 550 MW of module production in the summer of 2016. The company did not respond to pv magazine requests for comment by press time on what capacity the factory is expected to have if 200 workers are hired.

However, SolarWorld and other struggling U.S. cell and module makers are a minority of the overall solar manufacturing landscape in the United States. Most of the manufacturing jobs in the United States are instead in sectors including racking, tracking and mounting systems, and the makers of these products did not welcome an injury finding.

“The notion that increasing the price of solar is going to generate jobs is mathematically impossible in our sector,” Costa Nicolau, the CEO of PanelClaw, told pv magazine earlier this month at the Solar Power International Trade Show. He was referring to the argument advanced by Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and others that even if a few cell and module manufacturing jobs are preserved, that these will be outweighed by job losses in other sectors.

PanelClaw was among the signatories to a letter to the ITC expressing opposition to the 201 trade case, and the 27 racking, tracking and mounting manufacturers which signed this letter report that they employ 5,700 workers, more than three times the total employed by SolarWorld and Suniva at the peak of each company.