The oil giant BP has halted its activities in the solar sector although it continues to pursue business in other areas of the renewable energy industry, particularly wind and biofuels. The company made its decision in December but didn't actually announce the news until earlier this year.
The move was unavoidable according to a company spokesperson speaking to PV Magazine. It was initiated by BP's withdrawal from the Australian Government Solar Flagship projects after attempts by the company to restructure its operations, which was unsuccessful due to unprofitability. The spokesperson blamed the 'commodification' of the solar market and stated that BP had tried to focus instead on power-plant scale projects rather than rooftop solar. When this approach failed to deliver the decision was made by the company to withdraw from solar completely. The company has assured its clients that all warranty commitments will be honoured and is currently seeking buyers for various existing PV projects such as the Long Island Solar Farm.
The BP alternative energy webpage currently reads:
"BP is winding down its solar operations. This decision was very difficult given BP's near 40-year commitment to solar energy. However, the major global solar markets have experienced tremendous change over the past few years and we have been unable to generate the necessary returns to continue our operations. Throughout our long history in solar energy, BP Solar has driven the growth of the global industry through advances in technology. We have built landmark projects, including the recent 32 megawatt Long Island Solar Farm in the US. Over the years, BP Solar has installed approximately 1.6 gigawatts of products in almost every corner of the world."
The decision is not a complete shock to some in the industry as it appears BP has been scaling down its solar operations for a number of years, shutting down most of its solar manufacturing in 2009 with a number of job losses in Maryland and Madrid. Last July, the company decided to cease its activities in Maryland completely. It closed down its Frederick plant with the loss of 80 jobs.
Despite BP's decision, and a number of high profile bankruptcies such as Solyndra, investment in the industry overall continues to increase.