Flexible module manufacturer Bila Solar to open 1GW Indiana PV production plant

A view of the factory building in Indianapolis. Image: Bila Solar

Newly launched solar manufacturer Bila Solar has revealed plans to build a 1GW PV module production facility in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The company will make flexible, glassless, PERC (passivated emitter rear contact) silicon modules, which it said will begin to roll off its production line in summer 2024.

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Bila said that the 1GW facility will also house its new US headquarters over 150,000 square feet in downtown Indianapolis, representing over US$35 million in investment from the company.

Mick McDaniel, VP & US general manager at Bila, said: “We’re bringing to the US market ultralight modules that go where traditional solar panels can’t go. In Indianapolis, we found a central urban location, a diverse workforce and an entrepreneurial spirit – ideal for our out-of-the-box approach to making clean energy attainable for all.”

The company claims that its glassless modules are 70% lighter and 95% slimmer than traditional solar panels, and use “specially designed and patented aerospace composites”. Flexible and lightweight solar products are designed to open up solar to a more diverse range of deployments, including low load-bearing rooves, waterproof rooves and integration into vehicles and buildings.

Bila currently has a 1GW manufacturing plant in Singapore and has deployed around 500MW of its products to date. It was founded by Dr. Zhengrong Shi, who also founded solar manufacturer Suntech Power.

Rooftop and distributed solar deployments – the type which might be served by flexible panels – are on the rise globally.

Similar products exist on the market already; Nasdaq-listed Ascent Solar makes thin-film, flexible solar panels using a roll-to-roll manufacturing method that deposits Copper-Indium-Gallium-Selenide technology onto a substrate.

Bila Solar’s use of PERC half-cells departs from the thin-film technology that might be expected in lightweight and flexible products. On its website, the company says that it layers half-cut PERC cells between layers of polymer laminates and that the resulting panels are more durable than other flexible modules and of comparable efficiencies to traditional products.

The spec sheet for its debut 520W module claims a 19.3% conversion efficiency.

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