BP Solar to launch marketing initiative, cease thin film solar module production

BP Solar, the Linthicum, MD-based solar electric unit of BP PLC, reported that it would launch a branded sales and marketing initiative designed to connect homeowners with solar electric systems.

By OGJ editors

HOUSTON, Nov. 25 -- BP Solar, the Linthicum, MD-based solar electric unit of BP PLC, reported that it would launch a branded sales and marketing initiative within the next few months designed to connect homeowners with solar electric systems. BP Solar said it intends to roll out its marketing program "in California in January and duplicate it elsewhere around the world."

The action comes on the heels of the company's decision to cease manufacturing thin film solar modules and to double its current crystalline capacity in 2004.

"BP Solar is positioning itself to continue sales growth of roughly 30%/year," said Harry Shimp, BP Solar president and CEO. "That means focusing our resources on those markets and technologies that offer the best probability of success. Crystalline production capacity represents more than 85% of BP Solar's global manufacturing operations, and recent technical and manufacturing cost improvements bode well for its future."

The BP unit, which has crystalline plants in the US, Spain, India, and Australia, reported last week that it would add automated production machinery valued at $12 million (Aus.) at its factory in Homebush, Sydney, boosting that production line by 40%. The expansion will result in an annual output of 35 Mw.

BP had invested more than $200 million in photovoltaics by fall 2001, to establish a niche in the growing solar energy sector (OGJ Online, Oct. 23, 2001).

On the exit from thin film manufacturing, Shimp said, "We have worked very hard with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and other partners on the research and development of thin film technology. However, while the technology continues to show promise, lack of material demand and present economics do not allow for continued investment."

BP Solar will halt thin film manufacturing at its Fairfield, Calif., facility immediately and convert the property into a center for North America warehousing and distribution. It will serve as the company's West Coast base for sales and marketing.

BP Solar also will close its Toano, Va., thin film plant if it cannot identify a buyer by yearend. The associated technology center will close immediately, the company said.

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