OptiSolar has laid off roughly 200 employees and halted manufacturing at its two factories in California, the company said Friday.

The solar panel maker, based in Hayward, Calif., stopped running its amorphous silicon thin-film production at its headquarters and the panel assembly factory in the Sacramento area Thursday, said Alan Bernheimer, a company spokesman.

OptiSolar is now selling its business and has talked to perspective buyers, said Bernheimer, who declined to disclose more details.

OptiSolar's fortune unraveled quickly. It was only back in January when the company said it had laid off 300 workers, or half of its workforce. The company once fancied itself a power plant developer as well and snagged a series of large-scale projects in the United States and Canada in the last two years, including a deal to build a 550-megawatt power plant in California and sell the electricity from the plant to Pacific Gas and Electric (see PG&E to Buy 800MW From Optisolar, SunPower).

Earlier this month, the company announced the $400 million sale of its project pipeline to Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar, another thin-film panel maker that itches to build a business in constructing power plants (see First solar Buys OptiSolar's Power Projects). OptiSolar couldn't raise sufficient money to carry out the projects. 

In the latest round of layoff, OptiSolar let go 142 workers from its Hayward headquarters and 58 employees from the Sacramento-area plant, Bernheimer said. The company opened the factory last fall, and a tour of the plant by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was featured on 60 Minutes. At the time, OptiSolar had planned to install a series of equipment in the factory by 2011 and employee 1,000 people to produce 2,000 panels per day.

That plan was stalled, though OptiSolar had been operating a small assembly operation in the Sacramento-area facility before the closure Thursday, Bernheimer said. He declined to disclose the company's panel production rate prior to the shut down. The company started construction of its project in Sarnia, Canada last fall, Bernheimer said. Before selling its project pipeline to First Solar, OptiSolar had planned to build 50 megawatts worth of power plants in Sarnia and sell the electricity to Bluewater Power.

The company leases the properties for both the Hayward headquarters and the assembly plant in the Sacramento area, Bernheimer said. 


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Tags: firstsolar, optisolar, pge, schwarzenegger