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The overproduction of solar materials in the U.S. and China has led to a glut in the market, which has driven prices down significantly. While this is great for homeowners–it’s definitely a buyer’s market–it’s not good for the industry as a whole. Solar jobs at two of the biggest manufacturers in China, Suntech and LDK, are being cut.
Part of the problem stems from the fact that China’s solar industry has been “dumping” huge quantities of solar panels into the U.S. This resulted in an over-supply of Chinese products. It also meant Chinese products were less expensive, so U.S. homeowners could install them more affordably. However, the more expensive American-made solar products, and the solar jobs that went with them, were at risk. The same thing was happening in the European Union.
Hence the tariff on Chinese products.
China, suddenly faced with a vastly decreased market, is being forced to scale back its production and cut solar jobs. Suntech has plans to cut solar cell capacity by 25 percent. Some staff will be shuffled around between plants at other locations, but some will unfortunately lose their jobs. LDK is also suffering. On Monday, its shares sunk to an all-time low of $1.18, and it has cut over 5,000 solar jobs this year.
One analyst, Aaron Chew with Maxim Group, said the two solar firms need to take even more dramatic action. “These guys are responding a bit, but they have to run even tighter ships to survive a 65-cent module environment.” He says scaling back production is “a necessary step they have to take just to keep their head above water, but it’s not like it is transformational and will keep them afloat.”
Most experts agree that solar will play a major role in tomorrow’s energy landscape, but first the industry has to survive this trying economic time.
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