SAN JOSE, Calif. - Intel Corp.'s solar cell spinoff, SpectraWatt Inc., is apparently shutting down its operations, according to reports.
The solar cell startup is shutting down its factory in Hopewell Junction, N.Y. and is laying off 110 employees, according to online reports. The firm opened the factory in May. Those articles can be read here and here.
The company blamed the economic situation in the solar market for the shutdown. On the other hand, the solar market has rebounded after a downturn in 2009. In fact, the market is booming, leaving some to wonder if SpectraWatt's technology was not competitive.
In any case, the move is a blow for Intel, SpectraWatt and the state of New York. It is also a setback for the U.S. solar industry. Much of the new solar capacity is being constructed in China and Taiwan. The U.S. is behind in solar fabs.
In 2008, Intel said it was spinning off key assets of a solar startup business effort inside its New Business Initiatives group to form an independent company called SpectraWatt. Intel Capital, Intel's investment organization, led a $50 million investment round in SpectraWatt and was joined by Cogentrix Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., PCG Clean Energy and Technology Fund and Solon AG.
Last year, SpectraWatt moved its operations from Oregon and established the company's first factory and its new headquarters at the Hudson Valley Research Park in Hopewell Junction, N.Y. SpectraWatt moved into a plant that was owned by IBM Corp. The solar startup reportedly retrofitted IBM's Building 334 on the IBM campus in that area.
The company hoped to be in production early in 2010. SpectraWatt's first factory line was supposed to have an initial manufacturing capacity of 60 megawatts (MW); additional lines were already being planned with site capacity exceeding 120-MW within the first two years of operation.
The company had been preparing for an official launch in the spring with customer shipments beginning in the second quarter of 2010.
In March, SpectraWatt received $41.4 million in investor funding in the form of convertible debt. Investors include Cogentrix Energy LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Intel Capital, PCG Clean Energy & Technology Fund and two other unnamed sources.
In May, SpectraWatt officially launched its factory in Hopewell Junction.
In June, SpectraWatt announced that they were the recipients of a research grant from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program of National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant, which totaled nearly $150,000, was supposed to support Phase 1 of a project focused on achieving panel efficiencies of over 20 percent based on a combination of multicrystalline silicon and other materials. The project was to be conducted in the second half of 2010 at the company’s research facility in Hillsboro, Oregon.
Last month, SpectraWatt was honored in Poughkeepsie during an award ceremony hosted by the Dutchess County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC). As the first solar cell factory in New York, the company accepted the Business Excellence Award recognizing their innovative approach to manufacturing.