Another one bites the dust: BP Solar shuts down

Solar industry consolidation continues as industry pioneer BP Solar closes down due to rapidly falling solar panel prices.

Martin LaMonica/CNET

One-time industry pioneer BP Solar has completely closed up shop.

After 40 years and multiple efforts to remain commercially viable, parent company BP has decided to exit the business entirely, according to spokesperson Robert Wine.

BP Solar had already closed manufacturing in the U.S., Spain, and Australia in an effort to lower costs. In July, it said it would only pursue only larger projects, rather than residential and commercial rooftop installations.

The rapid commoditization of lower-cost solar panels manufactured in Asia meant that BP Solar's products were no longer viable in Europe, Australia, and the U.S. where BP operated, Wine said.

The company, which famously touted the "Beyond Petroleum" name, remains committed to alternative energies in onshore wind as well as biofuels, he said, adding BP expects to reach $8 billion in research and development in this area by 2015 at the latest.

BP Solar is the latest casualty in a rapidly consolidating solar industry where global price competition has been blamed for a number of bankruptcies in the U.S. Last week, another industry front-runner, Solon in Germany, announced it was insolvent and will seek to restructure its debts.

The upside of product commoditization is lower prices for consumers. The cost for solar photovoltaic panels has dropped more than 50 percent in the past two years and continues to fall, according to analysts.

Even amid all the business woes at established solar manufacturers, there still remains activity among newcomers. Stion, which makes thin-film solar cells and panels yesterday raised $130 million to expand into Asia . It's one a number of thin-film companies seeking a foothold with a lower-cost product than traditional silicon solar panels.

 

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