Soitec, the company  billed as San Diego’s solar manufacturing success story, is laying off about 100 workers at its Rancho Bernardo plant.

The French semiconductor company announced Monday it had “triggered a first batch of cost-cutting actions, freezes or canceling many operating charges and reducing headcount.”

The company has struggled to hold onto crucial contracts that drew it to the region despite a wave of government support, including a $25 million grant from the federal Department of Energy.

Soitec arrived in San Diego in 2011, promising it would hire 450 employees and ramp up quickly with the help of lucrative power contracts with San Diego Gas & Electric and Omaha-based Tenaska Solar Ventures.

Those deals fell apart last year, leaving the company struggling to chart a path forward within a sector of the solar industry that’s struggled to take off.

The company makes concentrated photovoltaic panels, which are more efficient but require more sunlight than traditional solar equipment. They’re also more expensive, and better suited for large-scale utility company projects than small rooftop installations.

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Cheaper photovoltaic panels have been far more successful,and a handful of other companies that produce CPV panels, like Soitec, have struggled.

But not all of those companies received the same red carpet treatment.

When Soitec arrived in San Diego, regional leaders offered state enterprise zone incentives and the city sped up the permitting process for the company. The feds even kicked in the multimillion-dollar grant to expedite factory construction.

At the time, state and local leaders cheered Soitec’s innovative solar product and the high-paying manufacturing jobs the company would bring to the region. Soitec was billed as a shining example that large-scale manufacturing was possible in San Diego.

Now the company will now lose roughly 40 percent of its 250 San Diego employees. It’s looking to significantly reduce its investment in solar too.

In a Monday release, the company said its board of directors had unanimously decided to refocus on its core electronic business.

That doesn’t bode well for the San Diego plant’s future. It’s the French company’s solar manufacturing headquarters.

Now Soitec’s remaining San Diego employees and its planned projects in Boulevard, where the company had hoped to build large solar installations that would’ve helped it compete for future power contracts in the region, face an uncertain future.

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    Written by Lisa Halverstadt

    Lisa writes about San Diego city and county governments. She welcomes story tips and questions. Contact her directly at or 619.325.0528.

    Chris Glenn
    Chris Glenn subscriber

    Citbank is also in the process of selling 4% of their branch locations, including some in San Diego County.  The one I visited this week to empty a safe deposit box was well maintained. Employees, including a 20 year veteran are all being dismissed.

    Bob Spaulding
    Bob Spaulding subscribermember

    This appears to be another example of governments--at all levels--deciding where taxpayers' money should go instead of allowing the taxpayer/consumer to decide.

    First the federal government ponies up a $25 million gift to promote a solar power company, convinced of its grandiose future and numerous jobs.  Then the state chips in enterprise zone incentives, another taxpayer giveaway via forgone income taxes.  Then San Diego fast tracks the zoning and perhaps gives other breaks, an implicit subsidy. 

    All this to satisfy the environmental alarmists and government-knows-best types who claim government can create jobs.  Here's a question for them:  If taxpayers had kept the above money that was apparently wasted (was any product or service produced?) what would those taxpayer/consumers have done with the money?  Spent it or saved it.  Which would have produced goods and services that were desired.  And jobs, the kind that last.

    David Cohen
    David Cohen subscriber

    @Bob Spaulding 

    Just following the Texas model for adding jobs conservatarians tout as the wave of the future.  Of course it isn't.