Last week Seraphim Solar Manufacturing USA shut down its PV module factory in Jackson, Mississippi, leading some to conclude that the company is going out of business.
However, according to the main investor in Seraphim USA who pv magazine spoke with, quite the opposite is happening. The company did indeed stop operations and lay off some employees, but is doing so in preparation for a massive increase in manufacturing capacities.
Ryan Erwin, a director at Motorskill Venture Group and Seraphim USA, told pv magazine that the company is installing new tools to more than triple its manufacturing capacity to 500 MW annually. Additionally it will move from its current products, a combination of multicrystalline and monocrystalline to all mono-PERC modules with five busbars, as well as introducing modules made of half-cut cells.
Erwin expects manufacturing to resume in December, and for the company to ramp through the first quarter of 2019.
This would make Seraphim the second-largest crystalline silicon manufacturer in the United States and the third-largest overall, as First Solar has the largest capacity in Ohio but makes thin-film solar. However, there are a number of new factories coming online, including Hanwha Q Cells’ 1.6 GW factory in North Georgia and a new 500 MW LG module factory in Alabama that will upset that ranking, and put Seraphim tied for 4th-largest in the nation.
Additionally, all of this new crystalline silicon module capacity will more than exhaust the exemption from Section 201 tariffs for the first 2.5 GW of cells imported into the country. If all of these factories come online the United States will have more than 3 GW of module capacity that is dependent upon imported cells.
This news comes as Seraphim USA finds itself in choppy waters. The company’s CEO left a month and a half ago, and the chief financial officer took a leave due to personal matters, leading to speculation that the U.S. project was falling apart.
Additionally there have been rumors that suppliers had not been paid, which Erwin was not able to fully dispel, noting that there were interruptions in the company’s operations due to management changes.
However, Erwin says that Seraphim USA is coming back with new equipment and better products.
Seraphim Solar USA Manufacturing is a distinct company from Jiangsu Seraphim Solar System, the Chinese PV module maker, although Jiangsu Seraphim was an initial investor in Seraphim Solar USA and served as a technology partner.
Correction: This article was updated at 6:17 PM EST on October 22. An earlier version of this article mis-spelled Ryan Erwin’s name. Additionally we have clarified that Motorskill is the primary investor in Seraphim and that Erwin is a director for Seraphim Solar USA Manufacturing as well as Motorskill.