Texas continues solar focus with new N-Type manufacturing facility

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Mission Solar energy, collaborating with OCI Solar Power, opened the first N-Type cell manufacturing plant in the US on Monday.

The manufacturing plant is sited in Brooks City-Base, a mixed use community on the Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

“San Antonio is quickly becoming a hub for solar energy technology in the US,” said Alex Kim, president and CEO of Mission Solar Energy.

N-Type cells are more efficient electricity conductors than regular P-Type solar cells, and will be made into 72 cell 320W modules, the facility will be able to manufacture up to 50 modules an hour.

By next year, the facility’s full capacity is expected to be up to 200MW.

Spanning 240,000 square feet the plant will create 400 new jobs in the City of San Antonio, Texas, and has 240 employees currently.

The facility is part of US’s largest municipally owned energy utility, CPS Energy’s ‘New Energy Economy’ initiative and will supply local solar farms with modules for local citizens to gain access to clean energy.

CPS Energy’s New Energy Economy is inviting clean energy manufacturing to create jobs and boost the local economy. By 2015, 10% of San Antonio homes are to be solar powered. The clean energy initiative also plans to reduce energy demand by 771MW by 2019.

The Sun Action Trackers facility also recently opened north of San Antonio.

CPS Energy CEO Doyle Beneby said: “With trackers, inverters and now panels made locally, San Antonio is poised to become a hotbed for solar manufacturing, development and installation especially when you consider that these super-efficient panels have the flexibility to be used for utility-scale solar farms and for rooftop installations on homes and businesses. And it’s pretty gratifying to think that in a few short years, these high-efficiency panels will be generating energy all over the world.”

Part of the New Energy Economy, OCI Company’s chairman, SooYoung Lee, said it is making San Antonio its headquarters for its solar efforts.

OCI has an employment and economic growth agreement with CPS to provide permanent employment of at least 800 jobs, and stimulate business and economic development of at least US$700 million annually in Greater San Antonio.

OCI Power has three operating solar power projects and two under construction in Texas. With the Alamo 4 project now operational, work has commenced on both the Alamo 3 project in San Antonio and the Alamo 5 facility in Uvalde, Texas. The 5.5 MW Alamo 3 will be the first Alamo project to be built with locally made solar panels from Mission Solar Energy.

At 100MW, Alamo 5 is set to be OCI Solar Power’s largest PV project. The facility, expected to be completed in 2016, will cover 404 hectares of land.

It is hoped the new manufacturing plant will aid Texas' rise up the US state solar ranks and to speed up US adoption of solar energy.

Also in the state, First Solar has completed the initial 18MW phase of the Barilla PV plant, the first plant in the state to operate without a power purchase agreement. The ‘merchant’ PV power plant in Pecos Country, west Texas, will instead sell electricity on Texas’ ERCOT grid spot market.

Also El Paso Electric (EPE), a utility company in Texas that serves nearly 400,000 people has declared that it is not only ready to meet recently issued Environment Protection Agency (EPA) carbon standards but will be able to go entirely ‘coal-free’ by 2016. The company said its future energy supply would come from a mixture of natural gas plant and utility-scale solar.

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