Silex Solar, Australia’s only manufacturer of solar panels, has suspended manufacturing operations at its Homebush Bay facility – just months after discontinuing production of its in-house manufactured solar cells.
An article on the Sydney Morning Herald states Silex’s Sydney Olympic Park facility, previously a BP solar panel manufacturing plant, ceased production operations on Monday and 45 jobs have been lost.
Silex chief executive Michael Goldsworthy said the combination of a global oversupply of panels, the strong Australian dollar, most states slashing feed in tariffs and the Federal government’s reduction of the Solar Credits rebate were the main factors in the decision to suspend manufacturing operations.
According to an Interim Operational Update from Silex Systems : “SilexSolar has decided to suspend all manufacturing operations and place the plant in ‘care and maintenance’ mode until the future direction of the business can be determined. Most of the manufacturing employees have been made redundant, along with several engineering, technical and administrative staff.”
In August, Silex Solar decided to replace cells made by Silex with third party cells in its solar panels, a move that involved around 30 redundancies.
Silex Systems Ltd acquired the Sydney Olympic Park solar manufacturing facility once owned by BP Solar in 2009. The company’s future looked bright, with plans for expansion due to demand announced in June 2010. But by June this year, Silex was feeling the pressure of price competition in addition to solar rebate and incentive scheme cutbacks.
While Silex may for now be out of the local solar module manufacturing game (the company has other solar interests in Australia); a poignant reminder of what could have been will remain in the form of the Silex solar panels installed on the roof of the Senate wing and the gardener’s compound of Parliament House in Canberra.
All may not be lost for solar panel manufacturing in Australia though. While Silex mulls the plant’s future, it’s understood another company, Tindo Solar, is still in the process of setting up a factory at Mawson Lakes in South Australia. Last reports suggest Tindo Solar will begin manufacturing late this month and aims to produce around 250,000 panels annually.