Soitec To Give Up on Solar CPV

During an earnings call this week, Soitec, maker of concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) solar panels and developer of several CPV solar projects across the globe, announced that it plans to exit the solar industry and focus instead on its core semiconductor manufacturing business.

The company announced that its solar division had earnings of €3.4 million in the third quarter and €38.6 million over the 9 months period. During the same timeframe last year, the solar division had earnings of €1 million.

The company said in its announcement that it will lay off 100 people at its U.S. facility in San Diego, California, which employs 250 people.

Soitec was reportedly struggling to keep the San Diego manufacturing facility afloat after SDG&E canceled several contracts to buy power from solar power plants that would use Soitec’s CPV technology. Indeed, Soitec opened the manufacturing facility in 2012 on the strength of those contracts, which at the time were for up to 305 MW of solar power to be purchased by the San Diego utility. Over the past three years, however, those contracts were delayed, modified and/or ultimately canceled in order to take advantage of lower-cost PV solar power. Their fate remains undecided but SDG&E has reportedly said that it “does not have any contracts with Soitec,” according to statements made to the Voice of San Diego.

Soitec’s 44-MW solar power plant in Touwsrivier, South Africa was recently commissioned and the company said in its earnings call that it anticipates collecting up to €40 million in the coming months from the sale of power generated at that site. However it still anticipates a loss in the second half of its fiscal year. The company also stated, “a significant impairment charge shall be recorded in H2 FY14-15 in order to reflect solar scenario outcome and restructuring measures implemented.”

Soitec Solar announced efficiency milestones for its technology as recently as December 2014 and had said that it was on track to produce a 50 percent efficient solar cell in 2015. Obviously this week’s announcement calls that goal into question.

The company stated that it has initiated efforts to realize the value of its solar energy business and that it “will assess the most appropriate scenario to extract value from its solar-related assets."

We will continue to update this story as developments unfold.

Lead image: Soitec's concentrating photovoltaic solar cells. Credit: Soitec.

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