Tipton — Abound Solar, which plans to open a manufacturing facility in Tipton County, is laying off workers at its Colorado plant to implement new technology in its solar panels.
Abound announced Tuesday it is ceasing production of its first-generation solar panels in order to accelerate the manufacturing process and change equipment to begin producing a more efficient module.
With the suspension of first-generation module production, there will be a temporary reduction of 180 permanent workers, Abound said. The Denver Post reported 100 part-time employees would also be laid off.
Abound in 2010 secured a $400 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy, with most of the funds slated for the Tipton facility.
The solar manufacturer plans to move into the vacant Getrag Transmission plant and produce solar panels. The company has said it would create anywhere from 850 to 1,200 jobs in Tipton.
The Tipton facility was expected to start operations in 2012. The company said an update on the facility will be made in the middle of 2013.
Tipton County Commissioner Jane Harper said she spoke with Abound Solar officials and was told the company still plans to open the facility in Tipton County.
“I remain optimistic regarding the future of the Abound Tipton site, and although this announcement delays the opportunity for our workforce to be gainfully employed,” Harper said, “the good news of a break through by Abound Solar in advancing this technology will only increase the likelihood for the Tipton site to become the largest solar panel manufacturer in the U.S.”
The new, high-efficiency “AB2” 85 watt module represents a 12.5 percent solar efficiency as verified by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab, the company said in a press release. The first generation module produced 82 watts of electricity.
The company expects to start production of the “AB2” by the end of the year.
“While this is a difficult move with regards to temporarily reducing our workforce, we know that accelerating the introduction of our next generation module will bring significant benefits to our customers and allow us to create even more jobs in the future,” Craig Witsoe, Abound Solar CEO said, in a press statement. “Current market conditions are challenging for all U.S. solar manufacturers, but the long-term winners will be manufacturers of the lowest cost per watt, more reliable systems.”