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BP stops making solar panels at US facility

BP Solar says it will cease production at its solar plant in Maryland, due to high costs and declining PV prices.

A year-long restructuring has reduced unit costs by 45% and the company is winning a large share of new projects in the US and key global markets, say officials, but it has ceased silicon casting, wafering and cell manufacturing at the US facility, effective immediately.

The move will eliminate 320 jobs out of 430 positions at the Frederick location. Eligible employees will continue to receive full pay and benefits for three months, followed by severance packages, job placement assistance and transitional resources.

BP Solar will maintain its US presence in sales and marketing, research and technology, project development, as well as key business support activities. It will shift its remaining in-house manufacturing to its low cost joint ventures and regional supply partners.

“This was a difficult decision and we deeply regret the impact it will have on our employees and the community,” says Reyad Fezzani, CEO of BP Solar. “We have a long history in Frederick and I am thankful for the support of all our colleagues, the community and local, state and federal officials.”

BP started closing high cost manufacturing locations early in 2009. Earlier this year, the London- based BP said its solar and wind division was losing US$183,000 an hour.

Solar prices decline 50%

“Solar prices declined between 40% and 50% since the onset of the financial and economic crisis, compressing industry margins and driving solar power towards grid competitive pricing,” Fezzani explains. “By shifting our supply to a high quality, low cost supply base to serve both distribution customers and large scale projects, we have strengthened our position as a provider of competitive solar solutions with our offer of the highest lifetime value.”

The global solar market is expected to reach 12 GW in 2012. with the US growing to 3 GW/ BP has been involved in solar production for 37 years.

Last year, BP Solar said it increased global sales by 26% (versus market growth of 6%) and expected to grow at least 50% this year, exceeding predicted market growth.

Recent solar installations for BP in US

The company recently completed the largest solar rooftop installation in the United States, at FedEx Ground’s facility in New Jersey, and 17 rooftop installations at Wal-Mart stores in California. Construction will begin later this year on the largest solar installation in New York state (32 MW) for the Long Island Power Authority on the grounds of Brookhaven National Lab.

Fezzani says 70% of jobs in the solar industry are in design, installation and maintenance. As a major project developer, BP Solar will create hundreds of new jobs, it says.

Following its success in Germany, Spain and Australia, the company has launched its Certified Installer Program in the US, recently training 150 installers with plans to expand the programme as the market grows.

BP Solar is part of BP Alternative Energy, a global company with 1,600 employees. It designs, manufactures and markets solar energy products for the residential, commercial, industrial and utility sectors. BP Solar invests more than US$10 million a year in solar research and development.
 

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