September 16, 2015 Norcorss, GA: Nishan Kharga performs a quality control inspection of solar cells before they are shipped out for assembly in solar panels. The Sunivia solar cell manufacturing plant in Norcross runs 24/7 with plans to expand. The largely automated process requires only 22 worker per shift to operate. BRANT SANDERLIN /BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Large solar company in Norcross files for bankruptcy

Suniva, the Norcross-based builder of solar cells and modules, has filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to documents filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

In the filing, the company cites tariffs issues in the industry with causing its financial hardship.

Channel 2's Jim Strickland reports.

“Whereas Chinese and Taiwanese manufactured solar cells are subject to U.S. tariffs, solar cells manufactured elsewhere are not. It is solar cells manufactured in southeast Asia and included in solar modules or panels that are flooding the United States market, driving down prices.”

In March, the company, laid off 131 workers in Norcross, where it has its headquarters and a solar panel factory. The company also closed its panel assembly plant in Michigan, according to press reports.

Troubles at Suniva, one of the largest U.S. solar manufacturers, are a blow to Georgia’s nascent solar industry. The company had been growing rapidly since its 2007 founding at Georgia Tech - much of it with the help of millions in tax credits for new jobs, grants and other incentives.

Suniva is largely owned by Chinese solar panel maker Shunfeng International Clean Energy, which in 2015 bought a nearly two-thirds stake in Suniva in a bid to boost U.S. sales and avoid tariffs on panels made overseas.

The same year, the company announced plans to triple its production and add 500 jobs with a nearly $100 million expansion. It had 380 employees at the time, including 240 in Georgia.

An AJC analysis at the time of the announcement found the company could stand to receive up to $11 million in state incentives - largely from tax credits embedded in state law if it lived up to the promise of 500 new jobs.

At the time Gwinnett had provided at least $2.4 million in tax incentives to the company.

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