Sanyo Solar to lay off 25 percent of its Salem workers

Sanyo Solar will lose about a quarter of its Salem workers.

In another blow to Oregon’s solar manufacturing industry, Sanyo Solar of Oregon LLC will lay off 52 workers in its Salem plant.

Company officials told workers late Thursday that it will close its wafer slicing operation at the end of June. The closure will be permanent and means the facility will lose about a quarter of its 200 workers, said Aaron Fowles, a spokesman for Panasonic Corp. of North America, which owns the Sanyo Solar facility.

The Salem plant’s ingot facility will remain intact.

The company cited declining margins within the solar panel industry and recent changes in exchange rates for the move. The company will now either outsource the slicing work or relocate it to a different plant. Either way, the jobs could move outside the U.S., Fowles said.

The remaining Salem workers staff the last Sanyo plant in North America.

Fowles said the company will work to improve productivity of the Salem plant’s ingot side.

State solar champions weren’t surprised by the move. Panasonic, which owns the company, has apparently been looking to move parts of its solar-side operations to Asia, which sports a bustling residential photovoltaics market.

The news comes on the heels of SoloPower’s decision to suspend operations at its Portland plant.

“It’s a good business decision: Panasonic hasn’t been doing all that well in the solar space here in the USA,” said Ron "Mac" McDowell, president of Solar Oregon, “Their market opportunity is in Asia, so they figured if we’re going to ship to (Asia) anyway, why make it here?"

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