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Calisolar lays off 80 Calif. workers

Calisolar, which said in early September that it will build a plant in Lowndes County, Miss., recently announced it’s firing 80 workers from its polysilicon solar cell manufacturing plant in Sunnyvale, Calif.

The solar start-up company, which was founded in 2006, has more than 350 employees.

The company is moving away from solar cell manufacturing and is turning its focus to producing silicon and acting as a supplier to other solar manufacturers. The Mississippi plant will manufacture solar silicon, cost approximately $600 million to build and employ almost 1,000 people. The Mississippi Legislature approved a $75 million incentive package for the plant in a special session.

As with many solar manufacturers, Calisolar has been plagued by a price war against cheaper solar cells made by foreign manufacturers. Solar cell prices have dropped drastically in the last year, forcing companies like Evergreen Solar and Solyndra to file for bankruptcy.

In addition to its solar cells, Calisolar has been known for producing purified silicon at a relatively low cost. Many say using refined silicon improves the quality and uniform efficiency when used in solar cells. The company already owns a solar silicon manufacturing plant in Ontario, Canada, and has been producing this type of silicon for its own products.

“This innovative company will provide high-skilled, high-paying jobs for nearly 1,000 Mississippians, and the company’s decision to locate here further demonstrates our state is a competitive location for advanced manufacturing with advanced materials,” said Gov. Haley Barbour in a statement.

In June Calisolar was offered a $275 million U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee to build a plant in Ohio, but it recently withdrew its application because it couldn’t begin construction by a Sept. 30 deadline.

— Cnet News Green Tech blog and Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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