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Just across the border with California is Mexicali, Mexico, which has long been promoting its lower cost-base and unique location to the biggest market in the world. Citing the need to meet demand for the rapidly expanding North American solar market, SunPower said it will lease an existing building in Mexicali to build its E18 series, E19 series and world record setting E20 series solar panels as well as its T5 solar roof tiles.
"Establishing our own manufacturing facility in Mexicali means we will be positioned to quickly deliver our high-efficiency, high-reliability solar products to a growing North American solar market," said Marty Neese, SunPower's chief operating officer. "Over the past year, we have successfully ramped up manufacturing at Fab 3 in Malaysia where we set records for output and yield efficiency. SunPower also launched manufacturing in California, with a facility in Silicon Valley, and expanded our panel manufacturing in Europe."
SunPower did not disclose and timelines for the new manufacturing facility nor the expected target capacity and production levels.
Depending on the design and previous use of the building, typically it would take 6-10 months before tool installation and initial production ramp.
Various market research firms are forecasting the US PV market installations to more than double in 2011, from under 1GW installed in 2010 to over 2GW this year. Unlike key markets such as Germany, ground mounted utility-scale PV power plants are a key part of the reason for the strong growth. SunPower has previously highlighted it has a significant project pipeline, specifically in the US.
Only this week both SunEdison and First Solar have increased their project pipelines, primarily for projects in the US.
A few years back, Q-Cells had announced long-term manufacturing plans that included a production plant in the same region of Mexico, for the same reasons given by SunPower.