Solarex was once a solar energy firm which opened shop in Frederick, Maryland in the 70’s. It was very much a pioneer company and far ahead of its time. Its high visibility plant located next to an interstate highway leading to and from Washington, DC, was partially powered by solar electric energy.
Today, what used to be Solarex is now part of the BP Solar chain of solar production facilities found scattered around the planet. Today, Solarex is beginning to fade into the sun.
BP Solar announced it has ceased silicon casting, wafering, and cell manufacturing at the facility. It has laid off approximately 320 out of 430 positions at the site. Research, sales and marketing personnel will for now remain in Frederick.
The company has been on a solar cost-cutting mission since the beginning of 2009. It cannot compete with high cost solar products in a world where solar prices have dropped between 40 and 50% since the beginning of the global financial crisis about two years ago.
Photovoltaic technology just might have advanced beyond BP’s silicon-based photovoltaic products. This tried and true technology, versions of which BP made in Frederick, are the most effective in terms of conserving energy. But if cost is a larger issue than efficiency, thin film solar, using other technologies such as Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) and Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) seem to be the new way to go for large scale projects in the megawatt-plus scale, utility grade Reyad Fezzani, CEO of BP Solar had this to say:
“The global solar market is expected to reach 12 GW in 2012 with the US growing to nearly 3 GW, and we are scaling up our supply chain to serve this rapid growth here in the US, in the European, and Asian markets…The company is bringing its worldwide experience gained over 37 years as a solar product supplier and developer to both develop larger scale projects ranging from 1-300 MW in size and supply distribution partners serving residential and smaller commercial segments.”
In 2009 BP Solar increased its sales by more than 26% and expects to grow sales by 50% in 2010.
The departure from high cost solar manufacturing, such as the Frederick shop, has helped BP cut unit costs by an impressive 45% making products more competitive in a global market.