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Ohio poised as global leader in thin film solar industry

The state provides an ideal location for solar companies such as CdTe panel makers First Solar and WK Solar. Last week, Isofoton, the Spanish III-V high concentration PV manufacturer announced it has chosen Napoleon, Ohio, as the new home for its North American CPV manufacturing facility.


Business owners striving to launch and grow in the solar industry are easily drawn to locations that boast their desire and willingness to nurture invention. However, in order to successfully grow a business in a developing industry like the solar industry, businesses require more than a promise of funding. 

They need a perfect location where innovation is backed by generations of hands-on manufacturing expertise combined with extensive resources that also support profitable commercial success. Resources such as R&D, academic institutions, a skilled workforce, strong industry partnerships and a supply chain efficiently and cost-effectively bring a product to market.

Ohio has built its world-class manufacturing base in glass and plastic films to support the automotive industry. This existing infrastructure is now being repurposed to create truly innovative materials and products for solar photovoltaic technologies. This is key to new solar power technology development and the rapidly growing commercial success of Ohio's advanced energy community. In support, the state's academic institutions are solving some of the industry's most challenging innovation needs and preparing the next generation of advanced energy engineers for business success.

"Ohio is becoming a national and international leader in the solar industry," said Rick Stansley, co-director of the Wright Centre for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialisation, a world-class science and technology platform dedicated to research, development and commercialisation of new photovoltaic solutions.

"The state's long history as a manufacturing leader shows that we have the workforce and expertise to succeed in the evolving manufacturing sector and provide a world-class supply chain for the solar industry," continued Stansley.

Ohio offers a complete advanced energy supply chain infrastructure for businesses in the solar energy industry. The state's manufacturing strengths, skilled workforce and central location make Ohio a preferred location for advanced energy manufacturing businesses.

Northwest Ohio's historic strengths in the glass industry along with the world-class supply chain of manufacturers and systems integrators found throughout the state are a driving force supporting the state's solar industry growth. Leading solar manufacturing companies, such as First Solar and WK Solar Group, which both use CdTe solar technology, and Xunlight Corporation, which develops thin-film silicon solar cells, have operations in Ohio.

Last week, Isofoton, a leading solar energy technology company, chose Napoleon, Ohio as the new home for its North American manufacturing facility. Angel Luis Serrano, CEO of Isofoton said, "Our intention is to advance to all corners of the North American marketplace from our Ohio base, including advanced research and development."

Isofoton has worked with many Ohio partners to produce an "all-Ohio" supply chain. After extensive research, Ohio was determined the best location choice because it is a top five electricity generator and consumer, a top 10 in population, top five in strength of state solar carve-out, as well as home to several top-5 utilities and has a strong solar energy cluster.

American Municipal Power (AMP) has agreed to purchase up to 200 MW of "made in Ohio" solar panels over five years from Isofoton's Napoleon factory, which also has been selected by the Turning Point Solar project and American Electric Power (AEP) to supply Napoleon, Ohio-produced photovoltaic panels for 49.9 MW of solar energy to be erected on reclaimed mine lands in rural Appalachia. Isofoton is also working closely with the Toledo Port Authority on "made in Ohio" PV panels for solar energy projects.

"The state's long-standing heritage of developing manufacturing facilities and associated jobs shows companies like Isofoton that Ohio is the place where emerging technologies can thrive," said Joseph Hamrock, president of AEP Ohio. "At AEP Ohio, we are proud to play an instrumental role in bringing new jobs to Ohio, while advancing renewable energy technologies in the Midwest."

Ohio's universities and colleges are ready to meet the need for new technologies and skilled advanced energy workers through new research, degrees and training specific to the advanced energy industry through programs such as The University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio (UCEAO) and investments through Ohio Third Frontier.

Converting research into commercial success is another key to Ohio's success. Programs such as the state's Edison Technology Centres and Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialisation initiative (PVIC), a collaboration between The University of Toledo, The Ohio State University (OSU) and Bowling Green State University, have been instrumental in advancing solar technology innovation.

In addition, companies that locate in Ohio can reduce operating costs with the state's favourable business climate, because there is no tax on inventory or corporate income - and boost the return on investment with no tax on purchases of machinery and equipment. A recent report by the Quantitative Economics and Statistics Practices (QUEST) of Ernst & Young in conjunction with the Council On State Taxation (COST) ranks Ohio as third in the nation for friendliest tax environment.

"Ohio's success is not solely dependent on the strength of its business advantages. It's about Ohio's promise of work-life balance," said Ed Burghard, executive director of the Ohio Business Development Coalition, the non-profit organisation that markets the state for capital investment. "Low-cost, low-stress communities and short commutes create the State of Perfect Balance, where you can achieve both professional and personal success without sacrificing one for the other."
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