Seraphim Solar banking on ‘20-year’ solar boom in US

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The company behind what will be the first module plant operated by a Chinese firm on US soil since the closure of Suntech’s Arizona factory in 2013 has said it is betting on a “20-year boom” in solar in the US.

Speaking to PV Tech ahead of the expected completion of its first 150MW of US production capacity later this month, executives from Seraphim Solar said the company had made the move of opening an American module plant based on the long-term potential it saw in the US market.

Earlier this year Seraphim Solar revealed plans to open a 300MW module assembly plant in Jackson, Mississippi, with a view to ramping production to 1GW within three years.

Although the US market is currently enjoying unprecedented growth, there are concerns in some quarters that uncertainties over the future of the federal investment tax credit could prompt a slow-down in deployment after 2016.

But Seraphim Solar’s global executive general manager, Justin Xi, told PV Tech that the fundamental drivers of the US market, particularly in the residential and commercial segments, were strong and that the company anticipated long-term growth irrespective of the ITC.

“If you are talking to a utility [solar] company, for sure the ITC will have a really big impact. But if you think about the residential and commercial markets, these are markets that have a much longer and deeper potential compared with utility scale,” Xi said.

“For the power plants, everybody can do that – wind, biomass, solar. But only solar can be put on your roof – only solar, no others. So there’s a really big potential for everybody to do that. I cannot say everybody will do that, but the potential is there,” he added

Ryan Erwin, Seraphim’s investment partner in the US, added that with the US government pushing states harder to adopt clean energy and close coal-fired power stations, solar’s long-term prospects looked good. “We think it’s a 20-year boom,” he said.

Chinese cell and module manufacturers selling products in the US are currently subject to punitive import duties, but Xi said Seraphim’s modules would be immune from the tariffs, with cells coming from an unnamed manufacturer in Korea.

Xi said the company had no immediate plans to open a cell production line in the US. “Setting up a cell factory in the USA is a much longer procedure,” he said.

Xi added that the main selling point for Seraphim’s modules was their reliability.

“At Seraphim we are focused on the reliability side. So as you know we were the first company worldwide to pass the thresher test,” he said. “And that gives our customers a lot of confidence in our product. That’s a really key point – even if you have a really high power, how can you guarantee the high power will be really stable and will operate for the next 25 years?”

Seraphim is expecting to have the first 150MW of its new US line operational by the end of October, with the full 300MW due on line by the end of the year.

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