Key US renewable player blames EU market for job losses

The largest US renewable energy company by market capitalisation, First Solar, says ‘deteriorating market conditions in Europe’ are behind the decision to cut 30 per cent of its workforce.

The solar panel manufacturer said it would close its manufacturing facility in Germany, “indefinitely idle” four of its production lines in Malaysia and reduce its staff by 2000 employees from the current 6800, reports the Financial Times.

solar panels

The changes, which will take place over the course of the year could cost up to $370m, the Arizona-based company said, and would deliver up to $60m in savings in 2012 and up to $120m annually thereafter.

The solar industry is confronting difficult times with an oversupply of solar panels, particularly from China coupled with cuts in government subsidies to renewables in Europe.

Shares in First Solar have fallen 84 per cent over the past 12 months, illustrating the difficulties currently being encountered for solar companies.

“The real story is that First Solar has a product that is cheaper but less efficient than its competitors and that limits the market to big wide open spaces with lots of sunlight,” said Theodore O’Neill at Wunderlich Securities.

“The subsidies are being eliminated for large scale utility projects but not for smaller scale or rooftop and the company doesn’t have a competitive product for the markets that still have subsidies,” he added.

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