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BP Solar lays off solar cell and module staff

BP Solar says it will lay of 620 solar cell manufacture and module assembly staff in Maryland, USA, and Madrid, Spain, as it seeks to reduce unit costs by 25% by the end of 2010.

“The decision is part of our long term strategy to grow our solar business by reducing the cost of solar power to that of conventional electricity delivered through a modern power grid, and in time without the need for government subsidy,” says Reyad Fezzani, Chief Executive Officer at BP Solar.

“While the long term fundamentals for solar power remain strong, soft demand, lack of available credit for many players, and substantial price reductions due to high inventories require us to respond to remain competitive,” he adds.

Module assembly will be phased out at the Frederick site in Maryland affecting 140 jobs, almost a quarter of the 600 employees. The site will continue silicon casting, wafering, sizing and solar cell production.

At the Madrid site, BP Solar will close its cell manufacture and module assembly facilities resulting in 480 jobs being lost, over 80% of the total workforce at the site.

Engineering, technology product development, sales and marketing and other business support functions will remain at both Frederick and Madrid.

Despite the layoffs, BP Solar expects its global manufacturing capacity to increase in 2009 and 2010. BP Solar says it has the raw material resources and capability to manufacture and sell up to 320 MW in modules in 2009, double of 2008.

In 2008, the company signed a series of contracts with global suppliers of wafers and cells to supplement its manufacturing capacity.

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Photovoltaics (PV)