Aussie government awards major project status to Spark Solar cell factory

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Kevin Rudd’s Labor government has chosen Spark Solar Australia’s planned solar-cell manufacturing plant as the recipient of its first “Major Project Facilitation” award, recognizing what it calls the “strategic significance” of the factory to the country.

Under the MPF, the government provides the project with a facilitation service to achieve quick and timely assistance in areas such as government approval processes and access to government programs.

The company says it plans to invest AUS$60 million in a 40-MW crystalline-silicon PV cell factory, with production capacity eventually expanding to 120 MW. The initial line will lead to the creation of 115 permanent new jobs. 

Several potential sites for the factory have been identified, with locations such as Canberra, Queanbeyan, Wollongong, Geelong, and Adelaide under consideration. Interim CEO Michelle McCann cited a preference for a site “close to the Australian National University and University of New South Wales for collaboration purposes.”

Construction of the facility will begin late this year, according to Spark, with the first cell production scheduled for late 2010.

“Spark will produce premium quality cells using a proven, best-of-breed cell technology from Germany,” said McCann. “Even before the factory is built, we expect to presell almost all of our output for the first few years of production.”

The company also has plans to develop its own high-efficiency technology, the angled buried contact (ABC) cell.

Last year, the company completed its first round of capital raising with cornerstone investor Swiss fund, New Energies Invest. “We are now looking for Australian investors,” said McCann.

Spark has forecast revenues of close to AUS$150 million per annum, with much higher revenues expected following further investment and capacity expansion. The company will initially export its cells, but McCann said the company has high hopes for the growing Australian market.

“The Australian market is taking off, and we are well-placed to lead the charge,” she said.
The company says that the operation will inject $84 million into the local economy in its first five years.

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