Residential solar company Sungevity quietly laid off hundreds of employees last week, eliminating much of its workforce as the U.S. solar industry grapples with the coronavirus outbreak's fallout.
Sungevity eliminated 387 positions, according to a filing with California’s Employment Development Department, which requires that companies with more than 100 employees report mass layoffs. The filing attributed the cuts to “business conditions and the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Layoffs at Sungevity come as the U.S. solar industry grows increasingly concerned about the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The Solar Energy Industries Association trade group said the industry could lose up to half its jobs in certain sectors. The solar industry currently employs about 250,000 people in the U.S.
Sungevity once ranked among the top residential solar installers in the country. The company went bankrupt in 2017 and was renamed Solar Spectrum, only to merge with Horizon Solar Power — another residential solar company — and resume operating under the Sungevity brand.
The state filing showed the elimination of 349 positions spread throughout California, which established a statewide shelter in place order earlier this month, and 38 positions outside the state. The cuts impacted installers, sales teams, roofers and more. The workforce is not unionized.
A separate letter dated March 27 that was shared with GTM and purportedly sent to employees suggested the company was cutting 395 positions. Sungevity, Horizon Solar Power and Spectrum Solar did not respond to requests for comment or clarification on the number of employees impacted.
Some staff members were originally furloughed on March 20, according to the letter provided to GTM. In the letter, Sungevity said it was laying off “most of our workforce” effective March 27. Laid-off employees lost medical benefits on March 31.
“After reviewing our options, we have concluded that we must conduct a layoff effective immediately,” reads the letter.
Due to a state of emergency initiated in California on March 4, the company was not mandated to give employees 60 days' notice, which is usually required under the state’s labor code.
In March 2017, Sungevity laid off two-thirds of its workforce, or about 400 people, according to Greentech Media reporting. The latest layoffs come less than two years after Horizon and Spectrum merged and resurrected Sungevity’s brand. After joining up under the Sungevity umbrella, the group bought up other solar companies including solar marketing services company BrightCurrent, New Jersey-based solar developer Skyline Solar, and solar and storage provider Hawaii Energy Connection and E-Gear.
Since Sungevity's corporate combustion in 2017, the company dropped from the fifth-largest residential installer to tenth, installing around 21 megawatts of capacity last year, according to data from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.
Horizon Solar Power and Spectrum both work in residential installation, which has been particularly impacted by coronavirus-related state and city shutdown orders. Companies have reported stalls due to permitting agencies shutting down and difficulties continuing to sell to homeowners, who may be uncomfortable with installers visiting their homes or concerned about a pending recession.
The American solar landscape is littered with bankruptcies and layoffs as companies grow quickly and burn out. But Sungevity's latest layoffs leave an uncertain future for the homeowners who signed on to decades-long contracts with any of the impacted companies.