Intelligent Energy

Solar: Norwegian Would

Solar: Norwegian Would

Posting in Energy

Oslo solar pioneer REC would churn out photovoltaics in Norway, if only it could. But plunging prices force it to shutter half its domestic capacity. It's the latest casualty in the global business.

REC will leave open its overseas facilities, like this polysilicon plant in Moses Lake, Wash.

Norway’s $2.4 billion solar pioneer Renewable Energy Corp would churn out photovoltaics in its home country, if only it could.

But today it became the latest business casualty of plunging solar prices. It announced it would cut about 700 jobs and permanently close 45 percent of its wafer production capacity in Norway.

The closures in the towns of Herøya, Glomfjord and Narvik take down 775 MW of wafer production and 180 MW of REC's domestic solar cell production.

REC will leave open a newer 650 MW wafer plant in Herøya and a separate 300 MW plant in Glomfjord. It will also continue to operate a 700 MW integrated wafer, cell and module plant in Singapore, and polysilicon facilities in the U.S. at Moses Lake, Wash., and Butte, Mont.

“This is an unfortunate, but necessary step in the current market environment,” CEO Ole Enger said in a press release.

That “environment” includes intense pricing pressure from Chinese manufacturers that has contributed to the recent bankruptcies of U.S. solar makers Solyndra, SpectraWatt and Evergreen. While falling prices are stoking consumer adoption, they are wreaking havoc on the industry.

“We are currently working hard to regain the competitiveness of our remaining Norwegian operations,” Enger said.

REC is one of the world’s largest integrated solar manufacturing companies. Before the layoffs its workforce totaled about 3,900. In 2009 it claimed to have developed the world’s most efficient multicrystalline solar module, in partnership with Dutch research institute Energy Research Center.

Apologies to Lennon-McCartney for the forced pun of a headline.

Photo: REC

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Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure