First Solar Announces Antelope Ranch Layoffs
The 230-megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR1) photovoltaic power plant being built for Exelon Corporation (NYSE: EXC) by First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR) is facing some challenges.
Exclusively to GTM, Assistant Los Angeles County Supervisor Norm Hickling confirmed rumors of “a large layoff” of the AVSR1 workforce on Friday. “I also understand negotiations continue,” Hickling added about attempts to settle the dispute between First Solar and LA County that has put the project six weeks behind schedule, with “little progress.”
Approximately 120 of the current 240 person workforce was “furloughed,” according to First Solar Public Relations Director Alan Bernheimer.
This is a severe blow to an already jobs-poor Los Angeles-adjacent community where recent studies found as many as one in three homeowners behind and/or underwater with their mortgages.
Negotiations began in early April after an LA County safety inspector discovered that electrical connections on the 3.7 million First Solar cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin film photovoltaic panels that were to be used at the site did not have the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approval required by the project’s County-granted Conditional Use Permit (CUP).
The inspector was reportedly doing a routine site visit, in service to the CUP, when he discovered there was no UL approval for the panels’ electrical connections.
State of California building and safety codes require UL approval of electrical connectors. That approval is apparently not required or its absence was not noticed in other states, such as Nevada, where First Solar has done thin film installations. It is also a standard to which First Solar has not been held at installations it has done elsewhere in California.
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