SolarWorld Plans to Lay off Hundreds of Workers at Oregon Factory
German solar panel manufacturer SolarWorld AG is planning to close its American factory and lay off hundreds of workers in country. The U.S. subsidiary SolarWorld Americas Inc has announced that it may be shuttering its Hillsboro solar panel factory as its parent company in Germany struggles post-bankruptcy.
The subsidiary hopes to survive its parent company’s financial struggles, although it warns that the workforce may be significantly reduced in the fallout. As many as 711 employees at the plant face the risk of mass layoffs.
Company spokesperson Ben Santarris has confirmed that layoffs are expected. He said that SolarWorld management is currently in the process of determining what would be the “right size” for the company within the United States.
According to the notification that SolarWorld sent to state employment officials, at least 500 full time employees will be let go. However, the company may decide to lay off additional workers, taking the number to around 700 layoffs. All of these jobs will be permanently cut, as the company plans no future hiring in the United States. (Source: Oregon Live, op cit.)
SolarWorld Facing Competition from Chinese Manufacturers
SolarWorld owes its financial woes in the U.S. to cheaper Chinese substitutes that are undercutting its profits. Chinese solar panel manufacturers have been dumping cheaper panels into the American market, thus hurting the solar companies that are manufacturing in the United States, with a more expensive labor force.
In May, SolarWorld became part of an international trade case, in an attempt to get tariffs or other sanctions initiated against solar energy products imported from China. The American government imposed duties on Chinese solar manufacturers in 2012 and 2014, but those tariffs have been inadequate for SolarWorld. The company has also received tax breaks worth $80.0 million from state and local governments.
Oregon has roughly 4,509 jobs in the solar industry, but only about 1,200 of those jobs are in manufacturing. SolarWorld accounts for about two-thirds of those 1,200 jobs. The impending layoffs are expected to be the biggest in the state since last year. (Source: Oregon Live, op cit.)
Solar companies are now facing an uncertain future after President Donald Trump decided to step out of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Trump’s decision to leave the Paris deal has left many solar companies in the lurch, as their fossil-fuel rivals will once again get a free hand.
“SolarWorld plans at least 500 layoffs in Hillsboro, may close plant,” Oregon Live, May 26, 2017.
“BREAKING: SolarWorld may close Oregon factory,” PV Magazine, May 22, 2017.