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Setting Sun
Here Come the Solar Layoffs

Solar power is looking a lot less bright these days, and large layoffs from a prominent panel supplier are only the latest example of the industry’s dimming prospects. First Solar, an Arizona-based solar panel manufacturer, just announced it would be cutting 1,600 jobs—27 percent of the company’s workforce—as it struggles to adapt to a changing market. The Wall Street Journal reports:

[First Solar’s] restructuring, announced Wednesday in response to steep price declines and lower demand in China, includes about 1,600 layoffs out of the company’s 6,000 workers in the U.S. and abroad…In addition, company officials slashed their 2020 solar target in China to 9 gigawatts, from 20 gigawatts, to account for further projected demand declines in that country. […]

Shares of the Tempe, Ariz.-based company, down more than one-half this year through Wednesday’s close, fell 13% in after-hours trading to $28.55, trading at 2013 lows.

First Solar’s latest projections for its sales next year are nearly half a billion dollars below what most analysts were expecting, and represent a sharp departure from the rapid growth the company has experienced recently. In fact, First Solar now expects to sell 14 percent fewer panels in 2017 than it did this year, generating 16 percent less in sales.

In First Solar’s case, this dramatic course adjustment can partially be put down to a decision to skip a generation of its panels in favor of a more advanced, efficient panel that the company’s CEO claims can be manufactured for 40 percent less than the current crop. But that doesn’t tell the whole story, because the industry as a whole is facing a dismal 2017, with plateauing sales and mounting debts. Rooftop solar installations grew by 71 percent in 2015, but are expected to manage just 16.5 percent growth this year. It’s only going to get worse for these solar producers, as next year’s installations are projected to grow by just 0.3 percent.

First Solar’s response—to scrap a line of costly, non-competitive panels in favor of investment in a better replacement—is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough. In their current configuration, solar panels simply cannot compete with fossil fuels on price, and must instead rely on government subsidies like feed-in tariffs or tax credits to gain a foothold. Rather than propping up these fledgling technologies, policymakers would be far better off diverting taxpayer money towards the research and development of the next breakthrough in solar technology that would allow panels to thrive without outside assistance. That’s how shale gas is helping to reduce American emissions, and it’s the only way renewables will be able to follow suit and sustainably make an impact in the global energy mix.

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  • Fat_Man

    “breakthrough in solar technology that would allow panels to thrive without outside assistance.”

    Only if they can figure out how to keep the sun from setting every day.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Don’t give them any ideas….grin…

      • solstice

        When solar dominates the world in about a decade from now, you will lick the soles of my shoes. By 2028, that smirk on your face vis-a-vis solar will be wiped clean.

        • f1b0nacc1

          You come calling when that happens and I will feell SO VERY foolish….

          Seriously now…

        • Fred

          Yeah because SCIENCE (blessed be its holy name)!

          • solstice

            Aren’t you the same clown who said several months ago that were Trump to win the Republican nomination, he would lose to Hillary in a 50-state landslide? You are a deluded individual across the board.

          • Fred

            I’ll cop to a bit of exaggeration on the 50 state thing, but at the time a Clinton landslide was a plausible prediction given the poll numbers and the fact that every day Trump was doing or saying something that would destroy any politician in a normal election year. Turns out I underestimated the abnormality of this election year. And given the circumstances at that time, your prediction that Trump would “crush her” had less of a basis in reality than my prediction of a Clinton landslide. In addition, he hardly “crushed” her. The election turned on narrow victories in several swing states that could easily have gone the other way and he lost the popular vote. Seems to me you live in far too glass a house to throw stones at people for being “deluded.” And what is your bizarre obsession with people licking your shoes. You are a disturbed individual.

          • solstice

            I never said that Trump would crush her, merely that he would win. This must be yet another hallucination produced by your delusional brain (which you clearly inherited from an imperfect and unguided evolutionary process). But then again, Jewish zombie-worshiping Papists like yourself have never been renowned for their intellectual honesty. Look at the exchange we had on the topic several months ago and point out where I said he would crush her: As for people licking my shoes, I am being figurative, Fred, not literal, as any incisive person would be able to discern. I am conveying that I will prove a person to be embarrassingly wrong on a topic. At least in this instance, you made a claim that was falsifiable, unlike your claims about the supernatural.

        • Disappeared4x

          Germany subsidized solar for decades, but now relies on dirty brown coal as their hydrocarbon ‘bridge’, because Germany still has a strong industrial sector that needs reliable electricity.

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