SunPower, one of the world’s largest solar manufacturers, has announced this week it has completed the acquisition of certain assets belonging to SolarWorld Americas, including its Hillsboro, Oregon, facilities and its workforce of more than 200 employees.
The move follows not only the company’s April commitment to the US-based SolarWorld Americas — one of the two companies involved in the Section 201 trade case that led to the Trump Administration imposing tariffs on imported solar cells and modules in January — but also solidifies the company’s decision to re-enter the US solar manufacturing business following the September announcement that SunPower’s interdigitated back contact (IBC) solar cells and modules would be excluded from the aforementioned Section 201 import tariffs.
SolarWorld Americas resorted to seeking trade support because, as it said in October of 2017, it wanted a “four-year relief program” which would “address the serious injury inflicted on US solar cell and module manufacturers, and to ensure that the US solar industry as a whole, including downstream consumers, remains viable and a global leader in solar energy.” This argument had already been smacked down by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) earlier in the year and was further diminished by the SEIA in its own filing to the US International Trade Committee.
In the end, the German-owned SolarWorld’s US-based subsidiary has been bailed out, so to speak, through an acquisition by SunPower, which announced the move back in April as a “new chapter in American solar panel manufacturing” and as its own avenue back to manufacturing in the United States. At the time, SunPower said that “SolarWorld Americas is the leading American manufacturer of solar panels” and that its acquisition will seek “to revitalize the US high-technology manufacturing sector” by injecting “fresh capital into the SolarWorld Americas facility and implement leading-edge, high-efficiency P-Series solar panel manufacturing technology.”
Announced on Monday, SunPower revealed that it had completed the acquisition of “certain assets of SolarWorld Americas” which included the company’s Hillsboro, Oregon, facilities which includes one of the largest solar manufacturing facilities in North America. According to SunPower, the company has also already injected fresh capital into the factory as it plans to begin manufacturing its high-efficiency P-Series solar panel manufacturing technology there.
“This acquisition is an important step in helping to reshape solar manufacturing in America,” said Tom Werner, SunPower CEO and chairman of the board. “With a dedicated and experienced Hillsboro workforce and our advanced P-Series solar panel manufacturing technology, invented and perfected in Silicon Valley, we’ll be able to sell high-performance American-assembled panels to serve our strong U.S. market demand.”
“SunPower’s acquisition of SolarWorld Americas is a positive outcome for American manufacturing and for solar markets,” said John Smirnow, vice president of market strategy and general counsel for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “SunPower has been a long-time leader for both SEIA and the solar industry, and we support the manufacturing capacity that this deal will yield.”
Product shipments of SunPower’s P-Series from the Hillsboro facility is expected to begin by the first quarter of 2019.
The announcement comes a fortnight after the Office of the US Trade Representative had filed with the Federal Register office a decision that certain interdigitated back contact (IBC) solar cells and modules would be excluded from the Section 201 solar tariffs. As a result, SunPower’s own IBC solar cells and modules would be excluded.
“With today’s decision that SunPower’s highly differentiated IBC cells and modules are excluded from tariffs, we are able to turn the page,” said Tom Werner.
“SunPower can now fully focus our resources to deliver the best solar solutions to our customers, develop the next wave of solar technology through American research and development and invest in American solar manufacturing. This will support U.S. solar technology leadership and preserve American jobs. To this end, we are continuing with our planned acquisition of the SolarWorld Americas manufacturing facility in Hillsboro, Oregon and expect the transaction to close before the end of the quarter.
“SunPower’s 33 years of technology innovation and solar industry leadership are an integral part of the story around America’s energy evolution. We appreciate the Administration’s thorough review and consideration on this matter, and believe this outcome supports common goals of technology innovation, economic prosperity, energy independence, and U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace.”
“Regarding the recent exclusions ruling, we were happy to see it and hope there are more solar exclusions granted in the near future,” added the SEIA’s John Smirnow. “Additional exclusions would give American companies access to products that are not readily or adequately available from American-based manufacturers now or in the foreseeable future.”
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