19 Apr 2012:
U.S.-Based First Solar to
Close German Factory, Lay Off 2,000
First Solar, Inc., the U.S.’s biggest solar manufacturer, will lay off 2,000 workers and close its German factory
, citing what the company called fundamental changes to the industry and “deteriorating market conditions” in Europe. The Arizona-based company, which had been the world’s leading manufacturer of photovoltaic panels until 2010, has been staggered by declining demand in Europe as the economy continues to struggle, as well as lower government subsidies and the influx of cheaper panels from China into the global market. According to PV Insights, the onetime global leader in photovoltaic panels was eclipsed by China-based Suntech two years ago. The layoff represents about 30 percent of First Solar’s workforce. “After a period of robust growth, First Solar is scaled to operate at higher volumes than currently exist following the reduction of subsidies in key legacy markets,” interim chief executive Mike Ahearn said in a statement. A new report by GTM Research said that the non-silicon thin film technologies used by First Solar accounted for only 11 percent of global solar panel production in 2011
, down from 18 percent in 2009, partly because of dropping silicon prices.