CIGS thin-film company SoloPower chooses Oregon as site for first volume production facility

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SoloPower becomes the fourth CIGS thin-film photovoltaics manufacturer since the beginning of the year to announce it has selected a site for its volume production facility. The San Jose-based company has chosen Wilsonville, OR, where it plans to build a 75MW plant and create 170 new jobs as part of its initial phase of expansion. SoloPower made its decision in part because of a package of local and state incentives that includes at least $40 million in potential loan and tax credit monies.

 Once the flexible CIGS module facility is completed, it will have four production lines with a cumulative nameplate capacity of 300MW and eventually will employ around 500 people, the company says. The planned total investment will be approximately $340 million.

The incentives offered to SoloPower include a $20 million loan from the Oregon Department of Energy, which was recommended for approval by the Small Scale Energy Loan Program advisory committee. The company has also applied for a Business Energy Tax Credit of another $20 million from the state.

The CIGS firm is also in continuing discussions with the U.S. Department of Energy to obtain a loan guarantee for the construction of additional manufacturing capability.

The company’s corporate headquarters and R&D operations will remain in San Jose.

Sustainable Business Oregon reports that the company is in negotiations to lease a former Nike distribution center, where it would invest $56 million to build the first 75MW line in the facility. CEO Tim Harris is quoted as saying that about $10 million of that money could go toward retrofitting the site into a production plant.

Peter Kesser, the company’s VP of sales and marketing, told the publication that the longest lead time process equipment has already been ordered, with a goal of starting installation of the tools in the spring and getting the line into production by the end of 2011.

SoloPower completed another round of fund raising at the end of 2010, as documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission show the company bringing in $51.575 million in new monies.

During the past year, the company achieved several important milestones, including UL and IEC certification of its flexible CIGS modules, improved conversion efficiencies, expansion of its product line, and shipments to customers.

SoloPower joins three fellow California-based CIGS companies that have recently announced their intentions to locate production facilities outside the Golden State: W Solar (Wisconsin), Stion (Mississippi), and AQT Solar (South Carolina).

Another thin-film solar firm, Solexant, has also chosen Oregon as the location for its initial manufacturing site. The state is already home to the sprawling SolarWorld campus in Hillsboro, which is the largest crystalline-silicon PV production complex in the United States.

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