HelioSphera to build $500 million, 160MW solar PV module plant in Philadelphia Navy Yard complex


Greek solar manufacturer HelioSphera will build a new photovoltaics module factory in Philadelphia’s historic Navy Yard mixed-use complex. Work on the 160-MW production plant is scheduled to begin next year. 


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“The plan is for the construction start to be summer or fall of 2010, with the construction period to last about a year to 18 months,” Luke Webber, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, told PV-Tech. “They will probably be open in some capacity in 2011 and be up to full production in 2012.”

The new several hundred thousand square-foot factory will not built by “retrofitting an existing building” at the yard, according to Webber. “They will be building it from the ground up,” adding that “the only place in Philadelphia that you can build a project of this magnitude is the Navy Yard.”
The project is expected to create at least 400 jobs within three years.

The PV company began operating its first module production plant in September, a 60MW line located in Tripolis, Greece. Oerlikon provided the turnkey micromorph-silicon thin-film PV equipment set for the initial site, but the tool company’s participation in the Navy Yard factory had not been verified at press time.

Although he did confirm the construction timeline and green-field aspect of the development, HelioSphera’s Charles Dumont would not tell PV-Tech whether Oerlikon would be involved. “The company does not want to comment further at this time. We will provide more details as the project progresses.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell announced the deal during a press conference Monday. “This was a very competitive project and HelioSphera’s decision to locate this exciting facility at the Navy Yard speaks volumes about Pennsylvania’s efforts to build a competitive economic climate and one that encourages growth and innovation in the renewable energy field that will define our future,” he said. 

The total cost will be approximately $500 million, according to the participants. Some $49 million in various grants and loans will come from the state of Pennsylvania, the largest of which is a $20 million grant from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, said Webber. He also noted that the Navy Yard site is part of one of the state’s tax-free Keystone Opportunity Zones.

There are more than 1300 solar projects under way in Pennsylvania that, once completed, will bring the state’s total solar capacity to nearly 60MW, according to state officials. One of those PV system installations, funded by a combination of federal recovery act monies and state grants, is a 1.5MW power plant to be built on 6.5 acres of Navy Yard property by Conergy and Exelon Power Generation.

The Navy Yard will also be the site for two new solar-related centers run by the Pennsylvania State University, funded in part by U.S. Department of Energy grants announced earlier this year.

The first grant of $2 million will help establish the Mid-Atlantic Clean Energy Applications Center, which will promote adoption of clean energy technology by industry and government in the six Mid-Atlantic states. The second grant provides $3.5 million for the Mid-Atlantic Solar Resource and Training Center, which is aimed at developing the solar energy industry in the Mid-Atlantic region through technical assistance and workforce development.

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