CIGS thin-film photovoltaics manufacturer SoloPower has received a conditional commitment for a $197 million loan guarantee from the US. Department of Energy Loan Programs office. The company said the funds will support construction of a flexible thin-film module manufacturing facility in Wilsonville, OR, that, when completed and at full capacity, is expected to have an annual capacity of approximately 400MW.

The San Jose-based company, which has also received a generous package of local and state incentives, announced plans last month to build its first large-scale factory in the Portland suburb. Retrofit of the existing building is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of this year.

The thin-firm said the initial 75MW production line should be in operation by the end of 2011.  

Once up and running at full capacity, the facility is expected to provide direct employment to approximately 500 people, according to SoloPower, and represent a total investment of about $340 million. About 270 construction jobs will be created to build the plant, in addition to other jobs likely to be generated in the local supply chain.

Peter Kesser, VP of marketing, told PV-Tech that the commitment “will allow us to ramp up production over a shorter timeframe than we would have been able to without it,” although he could not provide an answer as to when the loan guarantee would be finalized.   

“We appreciate and commend the DOE’s emphasis on supporting innovative, clean-tech companies as a way to further the goal of energy independence while stimulating employment and helping secure our nation’s manufacturing base in this important emerging industry,” stated CEO Tim Harris.

SoloPower’s lightweight, flexible copper-indium-gallium-(di)selenide modules have been UL and IEC certified and are rated at up to 260Wp per panel, with 12.1% peak conversion efficiency verified by NREL. Small-volume sales are in progress to customers in five countries, according to the company.

The DOE loan guarantee program has issued nearly $18 billion in conditional or final commitments for 19 (corrected amount) clean energy projects. SoloPower becomes the third PV company to receive a conditional or final loan commitment from DOE for the purpose of building a volume production facility, the other two being tubular CIGS company Solyndra ($535 million) and CdTe module manufacturer Abound Solar ($400 million).

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