U.S.-Based First Solar to Close German Factory, Lay Off 2,000

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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.

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.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

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