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Local solar company closes its doors

16th Nov 2011

Silex Solar - Australia's only solar panel manufacturer - has suspended production in its Sydney facility.

Located in western Sydney - at the site of a previous BP solar panel manufacturing plant - the closure comes just months after the company discontinued production of its in-house solar cells and underwent significant management restructuring.

"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," the company announced in a statement yesterday (November 15).

The firm has suffered from changes to government policy, a strong Australian dollar and a flood of imports to the market, impacting heavily on its sales performance.

Chief executive Dr Michael Goldsworthy told News Limited that there was a "massive oversupply across the global photovoltaic market", and one of the crucial factors in his decision to close was move by state governments (with the exception of Queensland) to limit feed-in tariff regimes.

"Some of the policies in place were perhaps too generous," Dr Goldsworthy said.

"This created a situation where new governments reacted and shut them down completely instead of giving solar a more reasoned assistance."

Solar manufacturers around the world were suffering as China had risen from 6 per cent to 60 per cent of global production in about three years, according to Dr Goldsworthy.

August saw the announcement of a company restructure, appointing a new chief executive
officer and replacing Silex solar cells with those from a third party.

"These are important changes that are needed to better position Silex Solar as a key player in the Australian PV panel solar industry - both in the residential rooftop market and the growing medium-scale commercial market," Dr Goldsworthy said in a statement (August 16).

Three months on, industry pressure has forced the plant to close.

A spokeswoman for the NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher told Fairfax Media that it was ''unusual Silex didn't wait until IPART [the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal] handed down its draft determination into a fair price for solar before announcing a suspension of activity - given the draft report is due to be released by the end of November''.

Despite the closure, Silex Solar will continue its large-scale solar developments, announcing the construction of a 2 megawatt generator located in Mildura would start early December - and if successful, there is room for expansion, bringing to facility up to 100 megawatts to a 100 megawatt facility.

Posted by Mike Peacock - Solar Correspondent 

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