ROCKFORD (WIFR) – It’s been nearly three years since a solar panel manufacturer opened its doors in the Forest City, a facility that was supposed to bring hundreds of jobs.
Wanxiang opened in August of 2010, which was supposed to create more than 60 immediate jobs and eventually anywhere from 200 to more than 300 positions. It was a plan city leaders fully supported.
"We're going green, we're going global and this deal with Wanxiang it's about creating jobs for the Rockford economy,” said Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey when the plant opened in 2010.
Currently, the plant has only 13 employees and the site off Blackhawk Road appears to be empty.
Company reps say Wanxiang is closed this week because they ran out of a key material to make the panels. Another part of the project includes the solar farm off Beltline Road, south of the Rockford airport. There are currently 12,000 panels making up the second largest solar farm in Illinois. That power is sold to the utility company, Ameren which provides for Central Illinois.
The panels are still part of Phase one, a three megawatt solar farm. They eventually want to expand to 62 megawatts, but I’s unclear if or when that could happen.
The company says overall the solar market is slow. They say right when they built the facility, the solar market dropped out, but they say they do see a light at the end of the tunnel.