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One of the Last Storied Western Solar Manufacturers calls it a day; only First Solar Left Now

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Solar manufacturing has been almost completely taken over by China as its huge scale economics and low-cost structure has entirely decimated the competition globally. Western manufacturers who had developed and commercialized solar technology in the 1990s and 2000s have now almost completely disappeared from the global landscape. While the western brand names such as Q-Cells and Solarworld still exist, their ownership lies with Asian companies.

Q-Cells, REC, Solyndra, etc. the list is very long and old. Sunpower was one of the earliest and most successful solar PV cell and module manufacturers which was a spinoff from Cypress Semiconductors. The company saw huge success and stratospheric valuation during the early part of the solar industry development. However, the Chinese competition saw the company making large losses and it was ultimately bailed out by French oil giant Total which bought a controlling stake in the company. However, despite the support provided by its parent, Sunpower has continued to bleed over the years from its solar panel manufacturing operations as it could never really come up to speed against the rapidly Chinese moving cost and efficiency curves. also, read about the 12 Biggest and Best Solar Panel companies in the world.

Sunpower Solar Panels

Now, as per the Sunpower announcement, it is spinning off its solar cell and panel manufacturing operations into a separate company Maxeon Solar which will have substantial ownership by a Chinese solar company which is currently a solar wafer supplier. The company’s plants will be taken over by Maxeon with Sunpower focusing mainly on the commercial and industrial rooftop solar market in the USA. With the demise of Sunpower, First Solar is the only major western manufacturer which is still manufacturing solar panels at a decent scale. The others are either gone or have become niche players. Despite the protection given by the USA through various duties to domestic solar manufacturers, the industry is all but dead in the USA. China has almost completely stamped its dominance on the solar industry. With massive expansion by the likes of Tongwei and Longi, China’s technology and scale will become impossible to bridge. Some would say that it is impossible to bridge even now.


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

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