Suniva lands $141M in DOE loan guarantees, plans construction of 400MW PV cell factory in Michigan

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Suniva has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program to receive a loan of approximately $141 million, joining Solyndra and BrightSource as solar beneficiaries of the program. Once DOE completes its due diligence and subject to the successful negotiation of the loan terms, Suniva plans to leverage the loan to help it start construction of a new $250 million, 400MW solar-cell manufacturing plant in Saginaw County, MI.










Plans for Suniva’s Saginaw plant were originally announced in October, with the go-ahead contingent on the company’s receipt of the DOE loan guarantee.

The state of Michigan has also pledged to kick in some $15 million in tax credits over the next five years. In addition, the company will receive $5.7 million in U.S. Recovery Act Advanced Manufacturing Tax Credits to expand its solar cell manufacturing fab in Norcross, GA.

John Baumstark, chairman/CEO of Suniva, told Reuters that the solar-cell manufacturer is sold out through 2010. The news organization also reported that the Saginaw factory will become operational in 2011; once the plant is fully ramped, the company will have approximately 600MW of combined manufacturing capacity at both of its facilities.

A company source told PV-Tech at Greentech Media’s solar summit in Phoenix last week that workers are “knocking down walls” in Norcross as construction of Suniva’s third manufacturing line—with a 70MW capacity–has moved forward. Once completed, the new Norcross line will bring the site’s capacity up to 175MW.

He added that the firm is filing “more intellectual property” and expects to commercialize its “second-generation cell design” in the fourth quarter. 

The Saginaw plant could create approximately 500 direct jobs at Suniva, while fostering an additional 2000 indirect jobs for the Michigan economy, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Suniva said that the loan guarantee will enable the company to more than triple exports over the next five years; last year, it exported more than 90% of its products to Asia and Europe. Customers include Solon, Titan Energy, 1 Soltech, and SBM Solar.

Another solar manufacturer planning to build a plant in Saginaw, module maker GlobalWatt, has said it will use Suniva’s PV cells, while Ontario module start-up Heliene Canada has also stated that it has selected Suniva’s devices for integration into its c-Si panels.

The company landed $75 million in a financing round in 2009, funds designated to help Suniva build out its manufacturing capacity. Baumstark told Reuters that there are no plans for the company to go public at this time.

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