Another 700+ Solar Jobs Bite the Dust

If the clouds that hovered around the solar sector over the last few months have started to clear, they haven’t moved fast enough to prevent layoffs at two solar giants recently. GE Solar and BP Solar have axed more than 700 jobs.

The deepest cuts are at BP Solar (s BP). The company announced plans yesterday to eliminate 620 jobs (more than a quarter of BP Solar’s workforce), including 480 posts at two cell manufacturing and module assembly plants outside Madrid and another 140 positions at a plant in Frederick, Md. BP will shutter the two Spanish facilities and phase out assembly at the U.S. plant. BP plans to continue with silicon casting, wafering, sizing and cell production at this facility.

General Electric’s (s GE) solar business has cut second and third production shifts and some of its engineers — 86 jobs in all — at its Newark, Del., plant because of what a company spokesperson called “a sudden and dramatic decline” in demand, Gunther Portfolio and PV-Tech report.

Like the raft of wind and solar companies that have shed staff in recent months, GE attributes its cuts to plummeting demand and the global economic downturn. Not BP. While the company acknowledged slumping demand, tight credit markets and price reductions as a result of high inventories, it said this week’s layoffs are part of a long-term strategy for reaching grid parity.

If the long-term strategy refers to staying in business long enough to be a real competitor when demand picks up, the cost of materials and production goes down and maybe some stimulus funds and clean energy incentives trickle out, then we’ll buy that explanation. But you might as well call a spade a spade: The solar market is tough right now, and BP Solar, like its competitors, is cutting costs (“growing only its most competitive manufacturing worldwide”) to stay in the game.

Photo courtesy via Flickr