Billed as the largest nongovernment solar energy research facility in the world, Applied Materials has opened its new solar research centre in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, in northwest China. The 400,000-square-foot-plus facility houses a ‘SunFab’ thin-film manufacturing line and a complete crystalline silicon pilot process. Applied started construction in 2006 on the centre, which is expected to cost US$250 million as part of a multiphase project.
“We believe this technology center will provide important contributions to driving down the cost of solar around the world,” commented Mark Pinto, senior vice president, general manager, energy and environmental solutions and Applied’s chief technology officer. “In addition to housing Applied’s state-of-the-art research into solar manufacturing techniques, customers and potential customers from around the world will be able to work side-by-side with our technologists to reduce their time to market and improve factory productivity and cell efficiency.”
“As China works to build its renewable power infrastructure we are pleased to offer such a unique facility. In the laboratories, local suppliers of systems and materials will be able to work closely with our engineers to reduce development costs, accelerate the industrialization of clean energy technology and contribute to decreasing the cost of solar,” said Charlie Gay, president, Applied Solar. “This is a powerful benefit we are bringing to our customers and to China, and we look forward to immediately putting these capabilities to work.”
The new facility includes a solar technology centre for R&D, engineering, product demonstration, testing and training for crystalline silicon and thin film solar module manufacturing equipment and processes. Applied said that the centre would also work closely with local suppliers to test and qualify new materials and tools as well as evaluate new cost-saving technologies.