Auctioning the BP Solar Future

Liquidation auction of BP Solar photovoltaic manufacturing equipment from the closed Frederick, Maryland USA plant was completed January 26, 2011.
Are product and R&D exits the next logical steps?

BP Solar to auction equipment” by Ed Waters Jr. for the Frederick News-Post was the Wednesday headline in the sad final chapter of BP Solar in-house manufacturing located in the United States, Spain, and Australia. Last year, “BP Solar Completes Manufacturing Restructuring With Closure of Frederick, MD Factory” announced the strategic shift from:

its remaining in-house manufacturing to its low cost joint ventures and regional supply partners.

Heritage Global Partners led the Global Webcast Auction (equipment listing) for BP Solar International, LLC, and BidSpotter.com posted the following YouTube video of the auction day plant walk through. The spare no expense for safety philosophy of the factory design can be seen in the video and stands in stark contrast to operations upon the BP plc (NYSE:BP) Deepwater Horizon.

Commenting on the auction, a BP Solar spokesperson said:

The auction was successful, with the majority of the equipment sold.  The auction was both on site and on-line, with a total of over 100 participants.

I heard an eyewitness account that described a somber scene as a monster snowstorm socked Frederick with nine (9) inches (22.86 centimeters) of snow. Only about twenty-five intrepid souls hazarded the snow to attend the auction in person. GT Solar International, Inc. (NASDAQ:SOLR) multi-crystalline furnaces were among the items in demand and sold for bargain prices. Ten (10) vintage GT Solar Model GT MX 225 HEM Silicon Casting Stations, Manf. Date 2000, sold for $20000, and two (2) newer GT Solar Model DSS 450M Silicon Casting Stations, Manf. Date 2008, fetched $70000. Three new (3) Meyer Burger Model BS 805 Band Saws in their original crates were also auctioned.

Per the Frederick News-Post article: “We will work with them to move out any leftover items,” Costello said. “Usually we sell it by the truckload, package deals of what is left, rather than just one item at a time.

At the turn of the 21st century, BP Solar was a PV (photovoltaic) leader in a less than 200 MegaWatt global solar market dominated by off-grid applications. As incentive programs in Japan and later Germany spurred on-grid PV demand and created fast growth markets, BP Solar lost market share and relevance as passionate solar competitors and start-ups sought to build profitable businesses while transforming electric generation towards renewables.

To regain competitiveness, BP Solar announced plans to expand the Frederick facility with a 140000 square foot addition (“BP Solar announces $70M expansion in Frederick”) in 2006. After receiving a $7.5M (million) US Department of Energy research grant and increasing the investment to $97M by the 2007 groundbreaking, BP decided to halt the expansion just over a year later in the fall of 2008 as the Great Recession began (“Global competition clouds BP Solar expansion”).

At first, BP Solar planned to complete the $30M building and maintain production levels. Next, BP Solar looked to sell or rent the building expansion and exited PV module manufacturing laying off 140 workers in Frederick and closing two plants in Spain (“BP Solar eclipsed by global downturn, to cut 140 jobs in Frederick”). The downward spiral continued with the BP Solar decision to dismantle the building addition and, in 2010, to cease all silicon casting, wafering, sizing and solar cell production (“BP Solar lays off 320, ceases manufacturing in Frederick”) citing the inability to compete with low cost Chinese manufacturers.

If the pattern holds, BP might now look to divest BP Solar technology and research and development teams and instead focus on becoming a technology and brand agnostic, utility scale solar project developer.

One thing is certain; another Global Webcast Auction for BP Solar International, LLC, is coming up on March 16-17, 2011, at:

Avenida de Bruselas, 36.
Parque Empresarial Arroyo de la Vega
28108 Madrid, Spain

BP maintains an outline history of BP Solar beginning with the formation of Solarex Corporation in 1973.

4 comments

  1. Very sad. Who knows were this industry is leading to?

  2. Former employee says:

    Sadly much of the story is not written as there were some offers from companies to purchase the building and equipment but high level egos would not allow someone else to have a chance at success where they had failed. They would not risk a repeat of closure and successful re-opening of the Sydney facility. Shame on these leaders…..

  3. Dean says:

    Sad indeed, I and most of my co-workers were laid off and have been unemployed since November 2009. Sadly most of our jobs went to China for cheaper labor. I will only seek work from American companies and pledge to only buy from American based companies and ask that every American do the same. BP Solar does not care about people who worked so hard for them for many years. I say stay the hell out of my country.

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