SAGINAW, MICH. (Dec. 30, 11 a.m. ET) — A solar manufacturing company that originally planned to bring 500 jobs and a $177 million production plant to Saginaw announced this week that it will relocate in northern Michigan next month, citing a need to reduce costs.
“It's not an expansion. It's more of a cost optimization,” said Sanjeev Chitre, CEO of San Jose, Calif.-based GlobalWatt Inc. “We came there with good intentions, but the solar industry has changed dramatically in the last year and a half, and we just have to manage reality.”
In the past three months, GlobalWatt has had 15-17 contract employees at all its locations, Chitre said. At one time, the company had about 29 contract employees.
High overhead costs and an increasingly competitive climate in the solar industry over the past year and a half led to the decision to relocate GlobalWatt's solar module production plant to Copemish, Mich., about 30 miles south of Traverse City, Chitre said. The move, expected to take place by Jan. 15, will allow the company to locate closer to its module distributor and save on transportation, inventory and overhead costs.
GlobalWatt makes solar generators for specialty applications incuding consumer/recreational and disaster/emergency response applications.
GlobalWatt is not the first solar company in the region to suffer financial difficulties in recent months.
In August, Evergreen Solar Inc. announced that it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. After the announcement, the Marlboro, Mass.-based company closed its Midland plant, where 40 employees had worked since 2009. The plant had manufactured high-temperature filaments used in wafers for solar panels.
Amid these struggling companies, Midland-based Dow Chemical Co. began production of its Powerhouse solar shingles and recently ramped up output at its pilot plant in Midland.
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