Signet Solar picks New Mexico for company’s first U.S. thin-film PV factory site

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Signet Solar has chosen Belen, NM, as the site for its first North American thin-film-silicon solar PV module manufacturing facility. The first phase of the plant, set to have an annual 65-MW production capacity, is scheduled to start operations in 2010 and will create 200 high-wage jobs.

Signet has long-term plans for expansion. The company plans to increase annual capacity to 300 MW, hiring as many as 600 more workers, for a 600,000 square-foot facility at the site, which is located on 75 acres in the Rancho Cielo area about a half-hour south of Albuquerque.

The community says it plans to build a 700-acre solar farm which will employ Signet’s large-area TFPV glass panels.

The amount of Signet’s investment or details of incentives offered by New Mexico have not yet been disclosed.

“As Governor, I’ve been dedicated to making New Mexico a national leader of renewable energy and the creation of green jobs,” said Gov. Bill Richardson in making the announcement. (He will leave office soon to become the new Secretary of Commerce under incoming U.S. President Barack Obama.)

“At a time of economic uncertainty, this project will create hundreds of jobs and reaffirm New Mexico as a clean energy state and major player in our nation’s effort build a new clean energy economy.”

Signet joins Schott, Emcore, and Advent Solar in siting PV manufacturing facilities in New Mexico, which also hosts a world leader in energy research, Sandia National Laboratories.

“New Mexico was an obvious starting point for Signet Solar’s expansion into the growing US renewable energy market,” said Rajeeva Lahri, Signet’s cofounder/CEO. “Under Gov. Richardson’s leadership, New Mexico has demonstrated commitment to renewable energy through public-private partnerships, leveraging its skilled workforce and world-class research institutions.”

Signet commissioned its first TFPV fab earlier this year near Dresden, a 20-MWp capacity, single-junction amorphous-silicon line that is the first facility in the world to ramp and start shipping commercial module volumes using an Applied Materials-supplied SunFab turnkey manufacturing solution.

The company says it plans to expand its German capacity to 130 MW by the beginning of 2010 and to start operations at another plant in Chennai, India, in 2010, with a roadmap to 300 MW of capacity there by 2012.

With the addition of the New Mexico facility, Signet will have a projected 730 MW of worldwide production capacity online within the next several years.

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