New owner of solar panel plant doubles output and is hiring

By Katie Hayes

A Bellingham solar panel manufacturing facility will continue to hire additional employees in coming months as its new Canadian owner, Silfab Solar, continues to grow.

“We have been in active recruitment mode and currently employ 126 permanent employees with eight new being added this week and 10 additional temporary employees,” Silfab Solar spokesperson Geoff Atkins said in a recent email. “We are growing and actively looking for new employees.”

Silfab Solar is based in Ontario and is a leading North American solar panel producer. In 2018, the company announced it would invest $40 million to purchase and expand Itek Energy’s solar panel production facility in Bellingham. According to Bellingham Business Journal reporting at the time, Itek Energy’s role at the facility was uncertain.

Atkins said in May, however, that Itek Energy has no involvement with the Bellingham facility.

“Itek energy has no presence at the Bellingham facility and to my knowledge does not make solar modules anymore,” Akins said. “Silfab purchased all of the Itek manufacturing assets at the Bellingham facility.”

Karl Unterschuetz, previously with Itek Energy, is now director of business development for Silfab Solar, according to the company website.

Silfab Solar has since added a second manufacturing line, which began operating in April. According to a news release when Silfab Solar announced its $40 million investment, adding a second manufacturing line and integrating its automation technology would more than double production of photovoltaic solar panels, which absorb sunlight to generate electricity.

“In addition, we have upgraded and are in the process of adding new capacity to the original Itek manufacturing line, which should be in full operation by August of this year,” Atkins wrote.

Atkins said Silfab Solar’s photovoltaic module production in Bellingham has increased more than 150 percent since summer 2018, when Itek Energy operated the facility.

In 2017, Itek Energy moved from a smaller facility in the Irongate neighborhood to a much larger waterfront facility — the one now run by Silfab Solar.

According to a Port of Bellingham news release from the time of the move, Itek Energy began producing solar panels at 3886 Hammer Drive in the Irongate neighborhood in 2011. The facility was 11,000 square feet. Itek Energy acquired the 48,000-square-foot waterfront facility at 800 Cornwall Ave. in a $1.7 million deal with the Port of Bellingham.

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