Solar manufacturer Stion's decision to close Mississippi plant could spark lawsuit
California-based solar manufacturer Stion is closing its Hattiesburg, Miss., factory, potentially laying off 137 employees in an effort to discontinue operations, blaming cheap foreign panels for its demise.
Mississippi loaned Stion nearly $75 million and gave the company tax breaks and other incentives to locate its factory in the state.The company told Utility Dive it will "execute an assignment" to sell its assets to pay off its creditors, including Mississippi. Stion wants to sell the factory who would continue to operate it, and the proceeds would be assigned as a possible alternative to bankruptcy, the Associated Press reports.
The AP reports Mississippi officials are mulling whether or not to sue Stion for the $74.8 million it owes the state. Stion, a thin film developer, would benefit from an ongoing, controversial solar trade case, which will impose some sort of import relief on imported crystalline silicon photovoltaic solar modules and cells.
American solar panel manufacturers have been struggling against cheaper imports from abroad, with the latest casualty being Stion’s Hattiesburg factory.
"Intense, non-market competition from foreign solar panel manufacturers, especially those based in China and proxy countries, has severely impacted the viability of our business," a Stion spokesman said in a statement.
It's unclear whether the company would push for import relief down the road. Currently, a controversial solar trade case will impose remedies on imported crystalline silicon photovoltaic solar modules and cells from Mexico and South Korea. The U.S. International Trade Commission will vote on potential remedies on October 31, with the final decision resting with President Donald Trump, who faces a January deadline on the matter.
The tariffs would not affect Stion, however, because it manufactures a different type of panel. Greentech Media noted that its decision to manufacture a novel type of panel technology could also be at fault. But a tariff could make the company’s factory more attractive to foreign companies seeking a U.S. base of operations to avoid a tariff.
An earlier verison of this post incorrectly said Stion would not benefit from import relief. It would benefit, as a thin-film developer, from any proposed tariffs in the ongoing solar trade case. However, since it cited competition from foreign imports as cause for its demise, Stion would not benefit from import relief since its type of panel does not fall under the scope of the Section 201 investigation. The post has also been updated to include information from Stion.
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