BP Solar will close its Australian solar-cell factory by early next year to focus on bigger, lower-cost operations offshore. The plant will close by the end of March, shedding about 200 jobs.

The solar-cell factory at Homebush is the largest such facility in Australia but the smallest solar cell plant operated by BP. Each year, the factory makes cells capable of producing a total of 50 megawatts. Many solar cell plants are twenty times this size and BP says that the Homebush plant is not capable of sufficient expansion to make it competitive.

Overseas plants are also closer to supplies of silicon wafers which he BP plant flies in from China or the United States. China, along with Germany and Japan, buys metallurgical grade silicon from Australia, and sells it back as semiconductor wafers costing 100 times as much.