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Solar Power assets up for sale

| Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

The assets of a solar panel manufacturer that employed more than 200 workers in Westmoreland County a few years ago will be auctioned off starting Sept. 18.

Solar Power Industries Inc. has said it fell victim to competition from Chinese companies that could make cheaper silicon wafers and solar cells used to generate electricity, and to a drop in demand for its products.

The Rostraver-based company manufactured wafers and cells in plants there, and in part of the former Sony Corp. plant in East Huntingdon.

Auction servicer Heritage Global Partners said in an announcement Wednesday that it first will consider bulk offers for all of Solar Power's assets, including assumption of a lease in order to continue operations, when the sale starts on Sept. 18.

If there are no takers, offers then would be considered for all assets to be removed, with no lease, but equipment also could be sold piecemeal in an online auction on Sept. 19 and 20.

Craig Thompson of San Diego-based Heritage Global said Solar Power still is in operation, but he doesn't know how many workers remain.

A spokesman for the company couldn't be reached for comment. CEO John A. Skiavo of the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland declined to comment.

Thompson said Heritage Global handles a lot of solar industry auctions, and expects “a significant number of worldwide buyers.”

Bidders for Solar Power's assembly line machinery could be other solar manufacturers, or investors who want to get into that business, he said. Potential bidders can preview a manufacturing site on Jonathan Willey Road, near the Rostraver Airport, on Sept. 18.

Solar Power announced in June 2011 that it would cut 176 workers from its Rostraver and East Huntingdon locations, and of the 75 that remained, several were assigned to partial work weeks.

The company at one point envisioned a $40 million manufacturing center at the former Sony facility, adding 375 jobs over three years. A $7.5 million state grant and $6.5 million low-interest state loan over 10 years supported that plan.

Kim Leonard is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5606 or kleonard@tribweb.com.

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