First Solar cuts 2,000 jobs

Struggling solar panel maker is also closing a plant in Germany.

April 18, 2012   by The Canadian Press

NEW YORK: First Solar Inc. is laying off 2,000 workers and closing its plant in Frankfurt, Germany, in response to waning demand for solar panels and increased competition from China.

America’s largest maker of solar panels said the layoffs amount to 30% of its global workforce. Some cuts come from shutting down the Frankfurt (Oder) plant, where it doubled the number of employees to more than 1,200 just last year. The company will also shutter some production in Malaysia. Additional jobs will be cut in both Europe and the U.S.

Solar manufacturers have been hurt by the global recession, an influx of Chinese panels and declining subsidy programs in Europe. Germany, the world’s largest market for solar power, announced in February that it would cut solar subsidies by 30%.

First Solar, which specializes in “thin film” solar modules that are both cheaper and less efficient than those made by competitors, lost $39.5 million in 2011. Its shares have dropped nearly 85% in the past year.

After the cuts, First Solar expects manufacturing costs to drop by $30-$60 million this year and another $100-$120 million a year afterward.

©The Canadian Press

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