Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sanyo to Dismiss 140 Workers in California Solar Factory Closing

Sanyo Electric Co. will cut about 140 jobs and close an aging solar wafer factory in Carson, California, as it prepares to start up operations at a plant in Malaysia.

The plant, which makes the equivalent of 30 megawatts of silicon ingots and wafers for solar cells a year, will stop production next month and close in October, Masatsugu Uemura, a spokesman for Panasonic Energy Co., said by phone from Osaka. Sanyo is a unit of Panasonic Corp. (6752)

Equipment at the plant, opened in 2003, was getting old and the company found it difficult to expand the business there because of the small size of the site, Uemura said. “Price competition is also getting tough,” he said.

Prices for solar panels and their raw materials fell last year as Chinese manufacturers increased production, leading to excess capacity after European governments cut back on subsidies. Sumco Corp., a Japanese silicon wafer maker, said on Feb. 2 it will cut about 1,300 jobs, or 15 percent of its workforce, as it withdraws from its solar manufacturing business due to declining prices.

Sanyo has a 70-megawatt plant in Salem, Oregon, that also makes ingots and wafers. Panasonic said in November it will invest 45 billion yen ($587 million) to build a 300-megawatt plant for wafers, solar cells and modules in the Kulim Hi-Tech Park in Kedah, northern Malaysia. Production will start in December, Panasonic said.

Uemura confirmed a report on Feb. 3 that Sanyo’s planned job cuts equal about 40 percent of its total workforce in the U.S.


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