Dec 22, 2010: Intel’s solar spinoff “SpectraWatt” shuts down

Intel’s solar cell spinoff, SpectraWatt Inc., is apparently shutting down its operations, according to reports.

Solar panel manufacturer SpectraWatt, which was spun out of chip giant Intel, will close its newly opened New York plant and expects to lay off workers, according to reports.

SpectraWatt was created in 2008 and funded with a reported $91 million to create silicon cells for solar panels. Earlier this year, it moved it headquarters from Oregon to upstate New York where the state offered tax breaks to open a manufacturing plant.

SpectraWatt was spun out of Intel two years ago to manufacture silicon solar cells.

On Tuesday, the company said that it will shut down the plant, which started operating in May this year, and it plans to start laying off at least 100 workers in March, the Associated Press reported. The company said that winter weather in Europe caused a slowdown in solar projects, cutting demand for its solar cells.

The Poughkeepsie Journal reported that the company, which was praised by local officials for creating jobs, had been offered $8 million in subsidies by a New York economic development fund but most of that money had not yet been disbursed. Local officials told the paper they were shocked and surprised by the closing.

In a statement provided to the Poughkeepsie Journal, SpectraWatt said it “continues to pursue alternatives aimed at improving its current situation and hopes to reverse this action.”

SpectaWatt blamed soft European demand for its shut down, but it and all solar cell and panel providers face intense price pressure from global competitors. In the past few years, prices for traditional silicon solar panels have dropped steadily, driven in part by a number of Chinese manufacturers that are scaling up manufacturing to bring costs down.

The solar cell startup is shutting down its factory in Hopewell Junction, N.Y. and is laying off 110 employees, according to online reports. The firm opened the factory in May. Those articles can be read here and here.

The company blamed the economic situation in the solar market for the shutdown. On the other hand, the solar market has rebounded after a downturn in 2009. In fact, the market is booming, leaving some to wonder if SpectraWatt’s technology was not competitive.    

In any case, the move is a blow for Intel, SpectraWatt and the state of New York. It is also a setback for the U.S. solar industry. Much of the new solar capacity is being constructed in China and Taiwan. The U.S. is behind in solar fabs.

In 2008, Intel said it was spinning off key assets of a solar startup business effort inside its New Business Initiatives group to form an independent company called SpectraWatt. Intel Capital, Intel’s investment organization, led a $50 million investment round in SpectraWatt and was joined by Cogentrix Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., PCG Clean Energy and Technology Fund and Solon AG.

Last year, SpectraWatt moved its operations from Oregon and established the company’s first factory and its new headquarters at the Hudson Valley Research Park in Hopewell Junction, N.Y. SpectraWatt moved into a plant that was owned by IBM Corp. The solar startup reportedly retrofitted IBM’s Building 334 on the IBM campus in that area.

The company hoped to be in production early in 2010. SpectraWatt’s first factory line was supposed to have an initial manufacturing capacity of 60 megawatts (MW); additional lines were already being planned with site capacity exceeding 120-MW within the first two years of operation.

The company had been preparing for an official launch in the spring with customer shipments beginning in the second quarter of 2010.

In March, SpectraWatt received $41.4 million in investor funding in the form of convertible debt. Investors include Cogentrix Energy LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Intel Capital, PCG Clean Energy & Technology Fund and two other unnamed sources.

In May, SpectraWatt officially launched its factory in Hopewell Junction.

In June, SpectraWatt announced that they were the recipients of a research grant from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program of National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant, which totaled nearly $150,000, was supposed to support Phase 1 of a project focused on achieving panel efficiencies of over 20 percent based on a combination of multicrystalline silicon and other materials. The project was to be conducted in the second half of 2010 at the company’s research facility in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Last month, SpectraWatt was honored in Poughkeepsie during an award ceremony hosted by the Dutchess County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC). As the first solar cell factory in New York, the company accepted the Business Excellence Award recognizing their innovative approach to manufacturing.

 
SpectraWatt Accepts Business Excellence Award in Manufacturing from Dutchess County Economic Development Corporation
Hopewell Junction, NY – November 4, 2010 – SpectraWatt, a manufacturer and supplier of advanced silicon photovoltaic cells to the solar industry, will be honored in Poughkeepsie this evening during an award ceremony hosted by the Dutchess County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC).
Read more…

 

CNN Visits SpectraWatt, Highlights U.S. Solar Manufacturing
Hopewell Junction, NY – Earlier this year, CNN visited our New York factory just a few days shy of its official launch.
Read more…

 

SpectraWatt Awarded Research Grant from National Science Foundation
Hopewell Junction, NY – June 1, 2010 – SpectraWatt, a manufacturer and supplier of advanced silicon photovoltaic cells to the solar industry, today announced that they are the recipients of a research grant from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program of National Science Foundation (NSF).
Read more…

 

SpectraWatt Inaugurates New York Solar Cell Factory
Hopewell Junction, NY – May 7, 2010 – SpectraWatt, a manufacturer and supplier of advanced silicon photovoltaic cells to the solar industry, today officially launched their factory in Hopewell Junction, New York with an open house event that included a ribbon-cutting ceremony and factory tours. Guest speakers included John Lushetsky, from the Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technology Program, in addition to state officials and business leaders.
Read more…

 

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis and Rep. John Hall Visit SpectraWatt
– Green Jobs Highlighted During Tour of SpectraWatt  in Hopewell Junction, NY-CARMEL, NY – U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis and Congressman John Hall spent the morning today touring SpectraWatt, a manufacturer of crystalline silicon solar cells, here at the company’s new high tech manufacturing facility in the Hudson Valley Research Park in Hopewell Junction, NY. The company, which currently employs 60 and plans to hire five more people next week, chose the site because of the area’s existing infrastructure and ease of access to a skilled workforce.
Read more about the event…

 

SpectraWatt Closes on $41.4M in New Funding
Investment sets the groundwork for next stage of growthHopewell Junction, NY – March 23, 2010 – SpectraWatt, manufacturer of photovoltaic cells for the solar industry, has received $41.4 million in investor funding in the form of convertible debt. Investors include Cogentrix Energy, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Intel Capital, PCG Clean Energy & Technology Fund and two other unnamed sources. The funds will be used to finalize completion of the company’s factory, advance internal operations and technology development and allow for planned capacity expansion.
Read full press release…

 

SpectraWatt Selected for NREL Pre-incubator Funding
Funding targeted to improve efficiencies of multi-crystalline solar cellsHillsboro, OR – June 17, 2009 – SpectraWatt, Inc., a manufacturer and supplier of advanced silicon photovoltaic cells to the solar industry, announced that the company has been selected for $500,000 in funding from the U. S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) PV Technology Pre-Incubator program.
Read full press release…

 

SpectraWatt Sets Up Headquarters in New York
Solar company attracted by Empire State’s green business incentivesHopewell Junction, NY – April 7, 2009 – SpectraWatt, Inc., a manufacturer and supplier of advanced silicon photovoltaic cells to the solar industry, announced today its intention to establish the company’s first factory and its new headquarters at the Hudson Valley Research Park in Hopewell Junction, N.Y. The move would initially create over 100 jobs in the New York region within the first year of operation.
Read full press release…

 

Intel Spins off Solar Energy Technology
Cogentrix Energy, PCG Clean Energy and Technology Fund, Solon AG also Invest in SpectraWatt to Deliver Solar CellsSANTA CLARA, Calif., June 16, 2008 – To spur new development and demand for renewable energy sources, Intel Corporation is spinning off key assets of a start-up business effort inside Intel’s New Business Initiatives group to form an independent company called SpectraWatt Inc. Intel Capital, Intel’s global investment organization, is leading a $50 million investment round in SpectraWatt and is joined by Cogentrix Energy, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., PCG Clean Energy and Technology Fund (“CETF”) and Solon AG. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2008.
Read full press release…

 

SOLON Acquires Strategic Stake in U.S. Company SpectraWatt Inc. for the Production of Solar Cells
Berlin, June 16, 2008. SOLON AG für Solartechnik (ISIN DE0007471195), headquartered in Berlin, has acquired a strategic interest in SpectraWatt, Inc., a newly formed U.S. company. The other shareholders in SpectraWatt are Intel Capital, a subsidiary of U.S. chip manufacturer Intel Corporation, Cogentrix Energy, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. and PCG Clean Energy and Technology Fund, an investor specializing in renewable energies. SOLON’s share in SpectraWatt is appr. 16 percent.

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