Oregon Democratic senator tours SolarWorld with Republican Energy Committee peer
HILLSBORO, Ore., Oct. 14, 2011 – During a visit to the U.S. headquarters of SolarWorld, the largest U.S. manufacturer of solar panels for more than 35 years, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) released a policy brief that highlighted what he described as a troubling development for domestic manufacturing of renewable energy technology: Even as worldwide demand for solar panels has rapidly mounted, a "myriad of subsidies" have enabled China's solar manufacturers to seize world market share by charging below-market prices.
Wyden, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee's Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness, issued the brief during a meeting with SolarWorld officials and suppliers, civic officials and reporters at SolarWorld's manufacturing campus in Hillsboro. He was accompanied by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Wyden and Murkowski – expected to be the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Energy Committee in the next Congress – visited SolarWorld as part of a day spent learning more about emerging energy technologies.
The two senators also toured SolarWorld's brand-new panel-assembly factory. On SolarWorld's 97-acre campus, the company operates the equivalent of four factories for all of the process steps of producing crystalline silicon solar panels: crystallizing silicon, cutting crystal into wafers, turning wafers into solar cells, and assembling solar panels.
Senator Wyden's brief shows that imports of solar cells and panels from China into the United States roughly tripled between 2009 and 2010 and more than tripled once again so far this year, compared with the same period of last year. During the period from 2006 through 2010, the report says, "Nearly every global leader of solar energy technology production lost market share to China."
In the past 18 months, seven U.S. plants have shut down or downsized in six states, laying off workers in Arizona, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.
Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc., said China's gains have come even as the two countries' manufacturers share roughly the same production cost structure, when higher U.S. labor productivity and Chinese shipping costs are taken into account. "Government central planning and massive state subsidies and sponsorship," Brinser said, "have enabled these Chinese manufacturers to drive their products at artificially reduced prices into a wide-open U.S. market."
About SolarWorld (www.SolarWorld.com):
SolarWorld (ISIN: DE0005108401) is a worldwide leader in offering brand-name, high quality, crystalline solar-power technology. Its strength is its fully integrated solar production. From silicon as the raw material through wafers, cells and modules all the way to turn-key solar systems of all sizes, the group combines all stages of the solar value chain. The central business activity is selling quality modules into the installation and distribution trades and crystalline wafers to the international solar cell industry. Group headquarters are located in Bonn, Germany. The group's largest production facilities operate in Freiberg, Germany, and Hillsboro in the U.S. state of Oregon. Sustainability is the basis of the group strategy. Under the name Solar2World, the group supports care projects using off-grid solar-power solutions in developing countries, exemplifying sustainable economic development. Worldwide, SolarWorld employs about 3,500 people. SolarWorld AG has been quoted on the stock exchange since 1999 and today is listed on, among others, the TecDAX and ÖkoDAX as well as in the sustainability index NAI.