Growth of Global Solar Market Spurs Spate of Plans for US PV Production Facilities

March 04, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

Highlighting a spate of announcements the last few months by global companies to open solar manufacturing facilities in the US, Kyocera Solar, Inc. of Japan announced plans to begin manufacturing solar modules in San Diego, California. The new solar module manufacturing will begin during the first half of 2010, with an initial production target of 30MW per year. The production venue was selected to cater specifically to the U.S. market’s increasing demand for large-scale solar electric generating systems.

Reflecting the Chinese government’s recently increased estimates for expected PV capacity from a 2007 goal of 1.8GW by 2020 to a 2009 goal of 10GW by 2020, Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. announced that its first U.S. manufacturing plant for the growing North American market would be located in the Greater Phoenix, Arizona area. The plant will have an initial production capacity of 30MW and is expected to begin production in the third quarter of 2010.

The announcement makes Suntech the first Chinese cleantech company to bring manufacturing jobs to America. The Suntech U.S. plant will employ over 75 full-time employees at launch and may double its staff within the year as the North American market develops.

On the European front, HelioSphera Holding SA of Greece announced that it will open a thin-film manufacturing facility in Philadelphia’s Navy Yard, creating 400 jobs and leveraging hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment.

SolarWorld of Germany announced what it claims will be the first fully integrated monocrystalline photovoltaic plant in the Americas. A new, 210,000-square-foot building nearing completion next to SolarWorld’s 480,000-square-foot main U.S. factory in Hillsboro, Oregon, will house 350MW of annual module-manufacturing capacity. Combined with 150 MW in Camarillo, Calif., the company’s capacity will total 500 MW in the United States and 1.15GW worldwide by 2011. Module assembly will occupy half of the new building, logistics the other half.

American company Dow Chemical Company also announced that Midland, Michigan has been identified as the preferred site for the first full-scale production facility for its DOW POWERHOUSE Solar Shingle, subject to finalizing local, state and federal funding.

The expected growth of more than 1,200 jobs to support the increased solar shingle production will be in the manufacturing, commercial and technical areas, with staffing anticipated to begin in late 2010. DOW POWERHOUSE Solar Shingles are expected to be available in limited amounts by mid-2010 and projected to be more widely available in 2011 as production scale up begins, putting the power of solar electricity generation directly and conveniently in the hands of homeowners.