Renewable Energy Companies Keep on Restructuring

Back in November of 2006, we reported that SCHOTT Solar was thinking about closing its 15-MW PV module manufacturing plant in Billerica, Massachusetts. That was mainly due to the shortage of silicon for producing cells. But they were able to keep it open — until now.

The problems solar companies face today are starkly different. There is now a glut of silicon on the market and inventory of modules is piling up. Down-stream manufacturers are being squeezed hard because of the steep drop in module prices. It’s a tough spot for many companies to be in.

Given this current environment, SCHOTT North America announced today that it has issued a warning to its 180 workers that it will close the Billerica facility at the end of July. SCHOTT says that the closing is an effort to streamline manufacturing operations. ::continue::

Last year, the company opened up a manufacturing facility for PV modules and CSP glass receiver tubes in New Mexico. The idea is to move as many workers as possible to this new facility as it gears up production throughout the year.

This announcement is the latest in a series of closings and restructuring efforts that we’ve seen globally over the last six months. BP Solar recently announced an end to PV manufacturing operations; Vestas has trimmed jobs, moved out of the UK and set up more facilities in the U.S.; and ACCIONA has cut a third of its U.S. workforce.

These are just a few of the many cut backs we’ve seen in the industry.

But many of the companies (the well-established ones, at least) seem optimistic. The political environment is becoming much more favorable for renewables, and that is creating strong baseline demand for these energies. Also, project finance is starting to free up, making it again possible to move projects forward.

Take SolarCity. The solar leasing company just announced the creation of a tax equity fund with U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation to finance solar projects in 2009. Now SolarCity says it will add 100 new jobs over the next six months. This is a much-needed piece of good news during these uncertain times.

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I am a reporter with, a blog published by the Center for American Progress. I am former editor and producer for, where I contributed stories and hosted the Inside Renewable Energy Podcast. Keep in touch through twitter! My profile name is: Stphn_Lacey

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