Solar Jobs have been cut in the tens of thousands this year by a number of European Solar Companies including marquee names such as REC, Q-Cells, Solarworld ,SMA Solar besides many of the smaller names. Some of the solar companies like Solon have completely shut down. 5000 solar companies have downed shutters in 2011 according to German association BSW. This is despite global solar demand in 2011 increasing by around 30-40% compared to 2010. The reason is that massive overcapacity has been created in China and other parts of Asia. Backed by cheap loans and massive subsidies, around 50 GW of solar panel capacity has been created . This has led to a crashing of solar panel prices by 60% which has decimated the higher cost companies in Europe.
In fact some of the biggest solar companies in the world like LDK and Sunpower would have been bankrupt as well but for the support of others. Solar Panel company Solland Solar of Netherlands is shutting down its module operations firing 100 workers. This is after selling its solar cell operations. Expect other remaining European companies to shut down as well though Solarworld is hoping to bring an anti-dumping duty against Chinese solar panels in Europe as well.Note in the past European solar companies have tried various ruses such as shifting solar factories to Asia . However that option is not open to the smaller fry who have no option but to die .
The number of solar factories closing in Europe has increased tremendously in the 2nd half of 2012 despite a record surge in Germany which would have raised 2011 solar growth to 25%. However the relentless price pressure from Chinese solar panel companies has decimated the solar companies in the West. While there have been a number of famous cases of bankruptcy like Solyndra and Solon, there have been bigger solar factory closedowns. REC has closed down more than 1 GW of wafer capacity while a pure play Spanish solar wafer factory also closed down recently . British solar wafer maker PV Crystalox is also near the verge of failure. Solar Wafer prices have fallen by almost 60% in the last 1 year with the prices much below the cost of production in Europe. It seems unlikely that any solar wafer maker will remain alive in Europe by 2013.
Solar Factories in US and Europe have been closing at a rapid clip over the last 2 years as Solar Panel Prices have come crashing down.Earlier the higher cost factories were able to survive due to non-existent Asian players and benign competitions.But with the rise of the Asian Solar Companies,the European and US Companies have faced very tough times.Q-Cells closed most of its German Solar Cell Manufacturing Lines even as it ramps up a factory in Malaysia.While there have been isolated cases of module factories being opening in Germany,Most of the Major Manufacturers like REC and Q-Cells are moving lock,stock and barrel to Asia.REC is already stepping up production at its 1 GW integrated solar plant in Singapore while Q-Cells manufacturing is also migrating to Malaysia.
Note this is not restricted to Europe.Japanese solar factories are being closed and shifted to Asia. USA Solar Jobs are also being moved to Mexico and other places.
Sharp which has managed till now to survive with its high costs in Japan factories too is now facing the pressure.Japanese market is highly protectionist with majority of the demand going to Japanese zaibatsus.The Japanese government is helping Solar Companies with subsidies/diplomacy to sell Japanese solar panels in Asia and Africa.Sharp now is being forced to move off the islands of Japan as the high cost of labor and currency makes it uncompetitive in the fiercely cutthroat solar panel global market.Sharp has a giant thin film silicon factory in Sakai and cell/module operations spread out in Japan.It will now manufacture more of its cells/modules overseas to cut down on the cost which are much higher than the Chinese.Note while Sharp is still a long way in suffering the fate of the likes of Evergreen Solar,there is no doubt that it is under huge pressure.Read my earlier post on Sharp’s position in the solar industry