American solar module manufacturer The Stion Corporation is closing down operations, with the business shuttering permanently on October 27 and layoffs to follow unless it can find a buyer.
Stion specializes in thin-film solar modules and operates in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The company hopes to maintain its facilities so that another owner can purchase and operate the facility, potentially saving jobs and parts of Stion, according to a statement.
The company is believed to have about 200 employees, but it’s unconfirmed how many of those employees will be laid off. The layoffs are also contingent on whether or not a new owner for the solar module factory will be found.
Stion blames “intense, non-market competition from foreign solar panel manufacturers, especially those based in China and proxy countries” for impacting its sales.
The company had first gone to Hattiesburg in hopes of creating 1,000 jobs and receiving over $500.0 million in investment over the first six years. Despite those lofty goals, Stion wasn’t able to maintain its business operations in the city. The company raised a total equity fund of $240.00 million before it went under.
The company is also suffering a time when solar companies across the country are having difficulty adjusting to renewed outside pressure from competitors like China alongside an uncertain political situation. The Obama administration was far more sympathetic to the renewables, whereas the Trump White House has been more interested in revitalizing coal and focusing on natural gas as power sources.
Despite the uncertain political situation at the start of the presidency, new laws are coming in that will make it more difficult for solar companies to be undercut by the competition.
The U.S. International Trade Commission is pushing tariffs on foreign-made crystalline silicon solar cells and modules. The tariffs would greatly benefit domestic solar producers and while the Trump administration has not been particularly positive on renewables, the president is focused on keeping jobs in the U.S. and is not afraid to wield tariffs as a tool to protect American businesses if he views the situation as anti-competitive.
“American Solar Manufacturer Stion to ‘Discontinue Operations’,” GTM Research, October 17, 2017.