SolarWorld, still battling China, offers financing for American-made panels

SolarWorld's cloudy financial situation has some analysts speculating it could be curtains for the company — the most drastic of a range of scenarios that could play out.
Courtesy SolarWorld

Solar panel-maker SolarWorld, in its continuing battle against Chinese imports, on Tuesday unveiled a new customer financing program applicable only to American-made solar products.

The German company, which operates the U.S.'s largest solar panel production facility in Hillsboro through its SolarWorld Industries America division, is launching the SolarWorld Freedom Plan.

The program, the company said, offers zero-down, low down payment, and prepaid financing options that guarantee the use of American-made panels.

“The majority of leased solar systems installed in the U.S. last year relied on imported panels from China,” Rusty Pittman, director of marketing for SolarWorld Americas, said in a news release. “Increasingly, Americans are seeking out U.S.-made products not only to provide them with quality, safety and environmental assurances but also to enable them to invest in their local and national economies.”

SolarWorld is in the process of restructuring its debt for the second time in six months, with several analysts skeptical that the company can survive today's market. The global solar industry is struggling with oversupply issues, and several analysts contend that the company's most likely to struggle are those that manufacture in high-cost environments, like the U.S.

SolarWorld executives, meanwhile, dispute the notion that manufacturing in Hillsboro is more expensive than elsewhere, and remain resolute in surviving the industry shakeout.

The bigger target, in the company's mind, continues to be China. The U.S. government last year decided to impose tariffs on certain solar products imported from China, thanks to a SolarWorld-led campaign accusing the Chinese government of enabling a damaging export scheme.

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