Suniva cuts the ribbon on crystalline-silicon solar-cell factory in Atlanta area

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Crystalline-silicon solar-cell manufacturer Suniva officially cut the ribbon on what’s being called the first solar factory in the Southeastern U.S. during a dedication ceremony attended by Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. The year-old company says that its Atlanta metro area production facility will create more than 100 permanent jobs by year-end 2009 and additional positions to come, once the plant ramps to full production capacity in 2010.

“Georgia made a strong commitment to the clean energy industry through its Energy Innovation Center and Bioenergy Corridor, and Suniva’s new facility makes us one of the first states in the nation manufacturing solar-cell technology,” said Gov. Perdue during the ceremony.

The Norcross factory has been running since October, when Suniva finished installation of its initial production line and started shipping its high-efficiency ARTisun solar PV cells. The company’s employs low-cost, screen-printing cell-manufacturing technology developed at the Georgia Tech University Center of Excellence for Photovoltaics Research and Education (UCEP).

The company has previously said that the plant’s initial production capacity will be 32 MWp, with plans for a fully ramped run-rate of 96 MWp by mid-2009. The addition of a second centrotherm turnkey integrated-equipment production line at the factory, which the two companies will start to install next year, will bring the total capacity to about 175 MWp by early 2010.

Suniva has contracts worth more than $1 billion with Solon, Titan Energy, and other solar module manufacturers, with more agreements potentially on the way. CEO John Baumstark is quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as saying his firm “was in discussions with a U.S. company and hopes to have an announcement of a deal soon.”

“As the U.S. economy retools to become an international leader in the new energy economy, Suniva stands at the forefront, supplying a superior homegrown product to the international solar industry,” said Baumstark during the event. “With our first factory officially open today, we are driving down the cost of solar and keeping clean energy technology and jobs in the U.S.”

 “Though Suniva is barely a year old, in some ways today’s ceremony is 20 years in the making,” remarked company founder/CTO Ajeet Rohatgi, who also founded and directs the DOE-funded UCEP. “My life’s work in advancing solar technologies has been made possible as a direct result of government funding and involvement with Georgia Tech. Suniva is the realization of all those years of hard work.”

“Suniva’s a dream come true for me,” he told the Journal-Constitution.

PHOTO CAPTION: Perdue is shown center-right in the accompanying photo, examining solar cells in the factory along with [left-right] Rohatgi, company VP of manufacturing Stephen Shea, and Baumstark.

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