HILLSBORO, Ore. (AP) — SunPower said Thursday it will close the former SolarWorld factory in Hillsboro, laying off 170 people in ongoing manufacturing setbacks at the site.
Japanese semiconductor producer Komatsu Silicon America spent $500 million to build the during the 1990s but never opened it, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. A decade later, German company SolarWorld started manufacturing solar panels there with $100 million in Oregon tax breaks.
But Chinese rivals, backed by government subsidies, outflanked SolarWorld and the company laid off most of the workers in 2017. SunPower, based in Silicon Valley, then bought it and began production but, amid shifting dynamics in the highly competitive solar industry, scaled back almost immediately. Last year it said it would sell the property to Japanese technology giant NTT, which said it would build a server farm there.
SunPower said at the time that it planned to continue making solar products there, but said Thursday that it would not after spinning off a portion of its business that manufactured solar panels.
“We made the difficult but necessary decision to close our plant after careful evaluation and the change in focus of our business over recent months,” SunPower CEO Tom Werner said in a written statement.
SunPower plans to cease operating in Hillsboro by March and clear out by early June.