DuPont Co. is closing a Chinese subsidiary manufacturing photovoltaic film solar energy modules, but the company says it remains committed more broadly to supplying materials to the solar market.
The Wilmington, Del.-based company said it will shut down its Hong Kong-based DuPont Apollo Ltd. subsidiary, which makes amorphous silicon thin film modules using ethylene vinyl acetate polymer as encapsulate and glass materials, in the face of tough market conditions. The shutdown will come by the end of the year.
The unit has a manufacturing plant in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, and a research lab in the Hong Kong Science Park.
"This decision was taken consistent with the company's discipline of continually reviewing its portfolio and focusing on high-growth, high-margin opportunities," Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont said in a statement.
DuPont set up the unit in 2008, and executives told Plastics News at the time that one of Apollo's targets was tapping into an expected increase in photovoltaic solar cell use in China.
But the investment fell victim to market overcapacity and a move by the industry to other technologies.
"Technology shifts and intense price pressures have created an extremely challenging climate for amorphous thin film solar module manufacturers," DuPont said in an email to Plastics News.
"The amorphous silicon thin film segment of the photovoltaic market has changed dramatically in recent years," DuPont said. "Market conditions for this segment continue to deteriorate."
DuPont said the unit's 70 employees in Hong Kong and 150 in Shenzhen are being offered separation benefits or other jobs in the company.
In its statement, DuPont said that independent of the Apollo decision, the company would remain a leading supplier of a range of other materials to the broader solar power industry. It said installations in the solar energy market are estimated to grow 20 percent a year over the next several years.
The company's products in solar energy include polyvinyl fluoride and polyimine films, specialized PET resins and EVA materials.
According to a 2009 DuPont announcement, the 538,000 square foot Shenzhen factory had a capacity to manufacture modules generating 50 megawatts of power a year. It said at the time the technology would be more cost effective and would use 1/200th the silicon used by crystalline silicon solar cells.