The Carson-based factory, which is run by Panasonic unit Sanyo Electric Co., will stop production next month and close in October, Bloomberg reported. The factory opened in 2003 and makes the equivalent of 30 megawatts of silicon ingots and wafers for solar cells each year. The new Malaysian solar cell factory being built in the Kulim Hi-Tech Park in Kedah is slated to open in December 2012. When complete, it will employ some 1,500 people.
Panasonic, or rather Sanyo, still has a presence in the United States. The company has a 70-megawatt plant that makes silicon ingots and wafers for solar cells in Salem, Oregon. It also operates a number of other business units, not related to solar, including industrial batteries and biomedical products.
The plant closure hasn't been discussed openly in the past. And yet, it's not entirely surprising. Panasonic has talked publicly about its goal to capture at least 35 percent of the domestic market share by next year. The new plant in Malaysia, which will have an annual production capacity of 300 megawatts, will help the company bypass increasing cost of domestic production and give the company a competitive edge over other Japanese solar manufacturers. Once the factory is complete, Panasonic's solar output capacity will increase by 50 percent to about 900 megawatts.
Photo: Panasonic (from World Solar Challenge)