US-based SoloPower is to suspend operations at its US$340 million plant in Portland, Oregon in June, laying off 29 employees.
The flexible-CIGS thin-film start-up had already revealed prestructuring plans in February as part of an effort to trim costs as the company moved from an R&D focus to commercial manufacturing and sales. Commercial shipments were expected to begin that month.
The plant, which opened in September and started with 60 employees, was funded partly by US$219 million in private equity and awarded a US$197 million guarantee from the US Department of Energy for manufacturing.
However, at the time, the company maintained that it would only take the loan from the DoE if it fulfilled certain criteria.
A US$10 million loan was also signed off by the Oregon Department of Energy, which was unaware of SoloPower’s plans to halt production, spokeswoman Diana Enright told local newspaper The Oregorian.
Ed Cahill, an associate at Lux Research, told The Oregorian that the high cost of SoloPower modules and low cell efficiency compared to competitors led to the company’s demise.
SoloPower was selling at US$1.80 per watt – more than double the cost of conventional panels which are approximately US$0.70 a watt.
The US solar industry had high hopes for the company expecting it to fill the void left by one-time pioneer and market sector leader, Energy Conversion Devices. The company had previously said it had been planning to start with 75MW capacity and ramp to 100MW.
However, in recent months, SoloPower is claimed to have cut 61 jobs at its San Jose headquarters and listed millions of dollars' worth of equipment there for sale.