NorSun produces M6 wafers for the solar industry. Import restrictions in the USA causes re-routing of Chinese modules to Europe, where they are sold at an exceptionally low price. This has accelerated the transition from the so-called M6 standard to M10 (larger wafer surface) and makes NorSun's planned upgrade and expansion even more important. The enormous number of low-priced Chinese modules has caused a large inventory build-up in Europe, and more than one year's uninstalled capacity is in stock, affecting the entire value chain in Europe. Improved government support is needed, both financially and market protection measures, at the same level as in the US.
-We can only register that the price drop and the build-up of modules in stock are creating major challenges for European players in solar energy. The market is flooded with low-cost modules that no one in Europe can compete with, says managing director of NorSun AS, Erik Løkke-Øwre.
He adds that the situation creates challenges along the entire value chain, including NorSun's partners and largest customers. Løkke-Øwre emphasizes that there is a good dialogue with the customers, and that NorSun uses these relationships to find sensible solutions to common challenges.
The changes in the market force NorSun to temporarily stop production at the Årdal plant and temporarily lay off employees until the turn of the year. A temporary layoff notice will be sent out to employees on Thursday 7 September.
A short time ago, NorSun raised new capital for expansion and was selected for the award of 53 million Euros from the EU Innovation Fund (EUIF). As a contrast to this, temporary production stop and a new round of temporary layoffs, are unwelcome news for the company and its employees.
-Our owners, employees, the local community, and customers have grand expectations for the planned expansion in Årdal. This situation underlines the importance that the government should follow up the EU Innovation Fund's grant with Norwegian support. Norway has a unique opportunity, with NorSun as the only ingot and wafer producer in the Western world, to take a leading role in the development of the solar value chain in Europe. This should be realized through a giant public-private collaboration, as is done in the EU, says Løkke-Øwre.
-It is a very regrettable situation that has arisen quickly and beyond our control. I am sorry that once again it affects our hard-tested employees in Årdal, as we can't avoid furloughs, says plant manager Anders Søreng.
Søreng says there has been substantial progress on several improvement initiatives in the plant over the recent months. The plant sees signs that they are about to succeed. The plant manager, together with key people in the plant, will now concentrate on NorSun's short and long-term expansion plans, including upgrading in Årdal.
-We have started work on upgrading equipment in the plant, says Søreng, and adds that an expansion in Årdal requires that Norwegian support schemes are put in place quickly.
-It is hard to have to go through temporary layoffs, and we should of course have avoided that. We will keep the close dialogue with management and will contribute in all ways to re-start production as soon as possible, says chief union representative Bodil Nordnes.
She emphasizes it will be an important task for the union to ensure a good information flow to the temporarily laid off employees in the weeks and months ahead. Nordnes also says that she is concerned that important skills and competencies may be lost due to the new period of furloughs.
-We have proved that we have unique expertise and technology in Årdal. When people are temporarily laid off again, so soon after the previous round, there is a risk that we lose parts of the competence that makes us unique. This is a major concern, says the union leader.
Plant Manager, Anders Søreng
Phone: +47 952 72 473
Chief Union Representative, Bodil Nordnes
Phone: +47 970 93 072
CEO NorSun AS, Erik Løkke-Øwre
Phone: +47 948 88 712