ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s solar manufacturing industry is alive and well despite a market glut of solar panels that forced one producer to close its doors.
The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/Q7wmn3) that most of New Mexico’s solar manufacturing businesses aren’t making solar panels and instead are building mounting platforms, solar-tracking systems and other components for solar installations that are in high demand.
A market glut, low demand in recession-strapped Europe and a flood of cheap Asian imports are driving down solar panel prices and creating intense competition among manufacturers.
That’s pushed many big players into bankruptcy, and it’s what forced Schott Solar to close its 200,000-square-foot panel factory in Albuquerque this summer.
In contrast, New Mexico’s solar-component manufacturers say business is booming.
Unirac Inc., an Albuquerque company that makes mounting platforms for solar systems, is increasing its workforce this year from 130 to 150. It signed a new lease Sept. 1 for a second, 40,000-square-foot building.
Another Albuquerque company, Array Technologies Inc., said it’s cornered nearly one-third of the entire domestic U.S. market this year for solar trackers, which are used to tilt and turn solar panels to follow the sun, increasing electric output from photovoltaic systems.
Two other companies also report stellar growth.
Sacred Power Corp., which makes fully assembled solar systems for remote homes and buildings, said 2012 is shaping up as its best year since launching in 2001. The company, which runs a 47,000-square-foot factory, projects $10 million in revenue by December, up from $7.5 million in 2011.
Direct Power & Water Corp., which designs and manufactures racks and other components for solar systems a 30,000-square-foot factory, has leased another 3,000-square-foot space across the street for storage and to accommodate its growing sales and customer-support teams.
New Mexico’s bustling manufacturing activity is fueled by huge growth this year in solar installations nationwide.
A surge in utility-scale projects — which power thousands of homes and businesses — is the principal growth driver this year.
Renewable energy mandates in many states, plus federal tax credits for clean energy development, also are fueling demand. But the big driver is a sharp drop in prices for solar panels and installations.