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Citing Weak Demand, SunPower Suspends Solar Production

By Rich Smith - Apr 20, 2020 at 3:50PM

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But management hopes to get back to business "in the coming weeks."

Coronavirus has done a number on all kinds of industries. Today we got perhaps our clearest proof that the solar industry also isn't immune to COVID-19.

This morning, solar panel producer SunPower Corporation (SPWR 4.43%) announced via filing with the SEC on Form 8-K that it has temporarily halted production of panels at all of its factories around the world, citing weak demand during the pandemic.

Construction worker installing rooftop solar panels

Image source: Getty Images.

 SunPower factories in France, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, and the U.S. have all been idled. "The Company expects to have existing inventory to meet customer needs," notes SunPower.

Analysts at energy research firm Wood Mackenzie forecast that demand for solar installations globally will come in 18% lower this year than it had previously predicted. In that case, weak demand for solar panels could well be satisfied by stockpiles SunPower and other manufacturers have already produced.  

The company is optimistic that demand will return with the waning of the pandemic, saying it has an "expectation" that factories "will come back online in the coming weeks."

In the meantime, SunPower has taken other measures to tide it over until demand for renewable energy revives, including reducing executive salaries and shifting some employees to a four-day work week. The company says it is "continuing to invest in its storage, digital initiatives, and its Maxeon 7 technology, while maintaining exceptional customer service."

SunPower also advised that its plans to split itself into two independent, publicly traded companies, one focusing on installation and the other on panel production, by the end of the second quarter of 2020, remain on track.

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