SunPower buys SolarWorld Americas to ramp up P-Series panel production

sunpower logo

In the latest episode of As the Solar Industry Turns, SunPower is acquiring 100 percent of SolarWorld Americas. You may recall SolarWorld Americas being one of the companies that hit a rough patch and filed a 201 trade petition that launched the #TrumpTariffs now in place. SunPower plans to inject fresh capital into the SolarWorld Americas facility and implement high-efficiency P-Series solar panel manufacturing technology.

“The time is right for SunPower to invest in U.S. manufacturing, and SolarWorld Americas provides a great platform for us to implement our advanced P-Series solar panel manufacturing technology right here in our home market,” said Tom Werner, SunPower CEO and chairman of the board. “P-Series technology was invented and perfected in Silicon Valley, and will now be built in SolarWorld Americas’ factory, helping to reshape solar manufacturing in America.”

SunPower plans to ramp SolarWorld Americas operations to capitalize on strong U.S. market demand. The company will invest in factory improvements and increased working capital, while retrofitting a portion of the facility to produce P-Series solar panels, in addition to continuing to produce and ship SolarWorld Americas’ legacy products. Like SolarWorld Americas, SunPower has spent decades perfecting its technology and manufacturing processes, and this announcement marks the company’s return to U.S. manufacturing. The agreement is subject to necessary U.S. and German regulatory approvals and other closing conditions. At closing, which is expected in the next several months, SunPower will become the largest U.S. solar panel manufacturer.

“This is a smart move for SunPower,” said Vikram Aggarwal, CEO and founder of EnergySage. “As our latest report shows, SunPower has typically been the most expensive panel brand offered to consumers, while SolarWorld has been among the lowest priced. This acquisition gives SunPower the ability to better serve both quality-driven and price-conscious consumer segments, particularly those looking for American-made products. It should also help the company minimize the impact of Trump’s solar tariff.”

“SunPower is the solar industry technology leader,” said Jürgen Stein, CEO of SolarWorld Americas. “We are delighted that SunPower has agreed to inject fresh capital and their industry leading P-Series technology into SolarWorld Americas operations here in Hillsboro. Our hundreds of long-time employees are excited to be part of this next chapter in SolarWorld Americas’ long history. We are thrilled about this acquisition as it means quite simply, that our company can look forward to redoubled strength as it continues to innovate and expand into the future. This outcome is ideal for SolarWorld Americas and its employees.”

 

— Solar Builder magazine

SolarWorld Americas says it plans to add 200 employees by May

SolarWorld

Hot on the heels of the trade case ruling in its favor, SolarWorld Americas sent word that its ramping up production and hiring up to 200 workers by May. “By the end of the ramp,” as the company phrased it, SolarWorld Americas will employ about 500 people, some of them returning employees.

“Our struggle has always been about keeping alive the pioneering U.S. solar-technology industry as well as its workforce, from Ph.D. scientists to line workers,” said Juergen Stein, CEO and president of SolarWorld Americas. “With relief from surging imports in sight, we believe we can rev up our manufacturing engine and increase our economic impact.”

The point was made by SEIA that the petitioners hadn’t produced a plan to show their path to viability if they did receive a favorable ruling, and maybe this announcement is a step in that direction. And hopefully there are still customers left to sell these products to come May.

 

— Solar Builder magazine

Bipartisan group of lawmakers urge ITC to oppose solar tariffs

solar tariffs

A bipartisan group of 16 senators and 53 members of the House of Representatives sent open letters to U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) Chairman Rhonda Schmidtlein urging the ITC to reject a petition that would slap tariffs on imported solar panels and cells.

“Solar companies in our states believe the requested trade protection would double the price of solar panels,” the Senate letter to the ITC said. “Increasing costs will stop solar growth dead in its tracks, threatening tens of thousands of American workers in the solar industry and jeopardizing billions of dollars in investment in communities across the country.”

The ITC is evaluating a petition that Chinese-owned solar company, Suniva, filed with the agency in April shortly after declaring bankruptcy. It was later joined by German-owned SolarWorld, also in bankruptcy. The agency is considering whether these two companies out of more than 8,000 across the U.S. solar industry deserve tariff relief that would impact the entire market.

The letters come just days before the ITC holds its first public hearing on the petition on Aug. 15. Hundreds of solar workers from all over the country, including California, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Virginia, will converge in Washington to explain the personal impact this case could have on their livelihoods.

The American solar industry is growing 17 times faster than the rest of the economy, and created 1 out of every 50 new jobs in the U.S. last year. Implementing trade barriers would double solar prices, grinding growth to a halt and forcing 88,000 Americans — one-third of the U.S. solar workforce today — to lose their jobs just next year.

SEIA submits prehearing brief on Suniva petition to ITC — read the summary here

Lawmakers who led the letter effort to the ITC include: Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Representatives Mark Sanford (R-SC), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Pat Meehan (R-PA) and Matt Cartwright (D-PA).

“This letter shows that trade tariffs are not a red or blue state issue,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “If these barriers are implemented, one of the fastest growing U.S. industries will be halted in its tracks, thousands of Americans will lose their jobs and billions of dollars of private investment will dry up.”

“We are thankful these lawmakers, on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol, recognize the solar industry’s massive impact on their states’ economies, and the irreparable harm this case could bring to families and businesses across our country,” Hopper said.

— Solar Builder magazine

SolarWorld Americas launches new Warranty Protection Program, receives cash infusion

Despite word of significant layoffs, and the ongoing insolvency proceedings of its Germany-based parent company (which the company says doesn’t affect them), SolarWorld Americas Inc., one of the largest U.S. crystalline-silicon solar manufacturers, continues to make moves.

New Warranty Program

SolarWorld

SolarWorld also announced more customer protections, which would be crucial in this somewhat precarious position. The SolarWorld Assurance Warranty Protection Program, featuring supplemental protection plans for residential and small commercial customers, includes the standard 20-year product warranty and a 25-year performance guarantee for most solar panels. But in addition to SolarWorld Americas’ product warranty and performance guarantee, the SolarWorld Assurance program provides supplemental, third-party-backed warranties to the system owner with no deductibles.

The Dual Warranty protection plan is for solar panels installed this year, and SolarWorld covers the premium. The Extend Warranty plan covers solar panels installed from 2012 through 2016.

The SolarWorld Assurance Warranty Protection Program is backed by an A.M. Best “A”-rated company and covers systems from 3 to 20 kilowatts. The warranties immediately go into effect in the event that the original factory coverage could no longer be supported; they also are transferable to new system owners.

“SolarWorld has been innovating product offerings for more than 40 years,” said Shane Messer, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing. “The SolarWorld Assurance Program is another first. By offering this program, we’re providing true, secondary warranties to our customers, with no deductibles, to assure peace of mind.”

SolarWorld Americas now decides to join Suniva’s 201 trade petition

Cash infusion

SolarWorld also sent word about a double-digit-million-dollar infusion of cash to enable the company to stabilize and optimize operations through 2017 and beyond. In the immediate, lenders of SolarWorld have agreed to forward $6 million in cash to the U.S. company, said Juergen Stein, president of SolarWorld Americas. Stein said the lenders also will permit SolarWorld to sell assets not required for operations and put the proceeds to use in funding operations.

In the near term, the company expects such a sale to result in a total, combined cash infusion in the double-digit-million-dollar range, Stein said.

“This financial reinforcement is good for our customers and suppliers alike,” Stein said. “It means quite simply that we can reassure our business partners that we will remain a reliable force not only in supplying leading solar technology but also in continuing to fight for fair trade in the U.S. market and improving market conditions there.”

— Solar Builder magazine

SolarWorld Americas now decides to join Suniva’s 201 trade petition

SolarWorld

SolarWorld always agreed with the premise that Chinese competition was unfair for the U.S. solar module market, but it sounded to us like SolarWorld was still against Suniva’s 201 petition, noting that it preferred that “any action to be taken against unfair trade shall consider all parts of the U.S. solar value chain.” After assessing further, and now that Suniva’s case is being investigated by the ITC, SolarWorld Americas Inc., is joining as a co-petitioner in the Section 201 safeguards case.

“We have hoped and waited for serious proposals for settling the overall U.S. solar industry’s trade tensions with China, but we have received none,” said Juergen Stein, President of SolarWorld Americas. “Therefore, we have decided to join the case to pursue the best remedy available to us to restore fair competition in the U.S. market.”

“The U.S. solar industry cannot afford to give away the future of critical renewable-energy manufacturing industries,” Stein continued. “We must take a stand in favor of preserving intellectual property, production know-how and U.S. manufacturing jobs, all of which have sprung from a vital industry pioneered on U.S. soil since the 1970s.”

Similar to Suniva’s timing, this announcement comes after its management board in Germany decided to file for insolvency proceedings. The company came to the conclusion that due to the ongoing price erosion and the development of the business, it no longer has “a positive going concern prognosis,” is therefore over-indebted and thus obliged to make this move.

“In light of the foregoing, the management board will now immediately file for insolvency proceedings with the competent local court (court of insolvency),” stated the SolarWorld board.

— Solar Builder magazine