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Environment

San Diego Soitec Solar Plant Sold, Future Uncertain

Soitec manufacturing facility in Rancho Bernardo on Dec. 19, 2012
Christopher Maue
Soitec manufacturing facility in Rancho Bernardo on Dec. 19, 2012

The owner of a much-heralded solar manufacturing plant in San Diego is selling the facility.

Soitec's arrival in San Diego was championed as a key moment in the region's foray into a quickly expanding solar power industry.

The French semiconductor company landed a $25 million grant from the federal Department of Energy and tax breaks from the state of California so they could build utility-grade solar collectors. The company used special lenses to focus the sun's rays.

San Diego officials also speeded up the permit process to allow Soitec to open up the company's Rancho Bernardo manufacturing facility faster. The firm said it was prepared to eventually hire nearly 500 workers there.

Several hundred workers actually got jobs as the company built out the plant and prepared to ramp up production of the solar collectors.

The company ran into trouble, however, when the cost of solar panels dropped much faster than anticipated.

Key contracts fell through and the Soitec solar collectors became too expensive to compete.

The new owner partners with a company that specializes in concentrated solar technology.

The firm's selling price hasn't been disclosed and there is no word on whether the Rancho Bernardo facility will remain open.

The sale is expected to be finalized later this year.