Evergreen Solar shutters costly U.S. plant

Price pressure from lower-cost areas, including China, leads Evergreen Solar, which received state aid, to close its Massachusetts solar panel facility.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
2 min read

Evergreen Solar will close its Massachusetts factory, saying that the U.S. is at a disadvantage in the face of low-cost Chinese solar suppliers.

The company yesterday said that its Devens, Mass., plant, a converted military facility, will be shut down by the end of the first quarter of this year. The move will result in 800 lost jobs, leaving about 100 in its Marlborough, Mass.-based headquarters.

Evergreen Solar said it needs to close the facility to preserve its cash and remain in line with global solar panel prices. It will continue to make silicon cells in Michigan and in China.

Evergreen Solar panels installed at Boston's Logan Airport.
Evergreen Solar panels installed at Boston's Logan Airport. Broadway Electrical

The move is a blow to the efforts by Massachusetts to develop a growing industry around energy. Evergreen Solar was given $58 million in state aid, in the form of tax credits and direct grants. In an interview with the Boston Herald, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said that the state will recoup a significant portion of the investment and that he did not regret the aid Evergreen received over the last four years.

Evergreen Solar has a unique "string ribbon" technology for making silicon solar cells and the company continues to lower its product costs, it said in a statement. But the company, which has been struggling financially for some time, cannot stay under manufacturers in China and other regions. It also expects that changes to solar subsidies in Europe could affect industry prices, too.

"Solar manufacturers in China have received considerable government and financial support and, together with their low manufacturing costs, have become price leaders within the industry. While the United States and other western industrial economies are beneficiaries of rapidly declining installation costs of solar energy, we expect the United States will continue to be at a disadvantage from a manufacturing standpoint," said Evergreen Solar president and CEO Michael El-Hillow in a statement.

Greentech Media solar analysts said Evergreen Solar is shifting its manufacturing to lower-cost places was needed in order to continue supplying products. "Although painful, shutting down Devens is the right move. For better or worse, Evergreen is now a Chinese wafer manufacturer with a headquarters in MA," said analyst Brett Prior in an article.