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Soitec To Open III-V Solar Manufacturing Facility In San Diego

With a new factory, Soitec will become one of the top three manufacturers of solar modules in the USA
Soitec has announced the grand opening of its North American solar manufacturing facility in San Diego.

Less than a year after the facility was acquired by Soitec, the factory is equipped with a state-of-the-art automated production line and is operational.

The concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) modules produced in San Diego will support hundreds of MWp of contracts for utility-scale projects in California. In 2011, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved 300 MWp of PPAs which are expected to use Soitec’s Concentrix technology.

Concentrix technology uses Fresnel lenses to concentrate sunlight 500 times and focus it onto small, highly efficient multi-junction solar cells. This technology has helped achieve AC system efficiency increases of 25% in actual operating conditions.

The basic research underpinning the Concentrix technology was developed over more than a decade at Germany’s Fraunhofer ISE, Europe’s largest solar research institute. In 2005, the Institute founded a spin-off, Concentrix Solar, to commercialise the technology. Soitec acquired Concentrix Solar in 2009.

Soitec acquired the 176,000 square-foot manufacturing centre on 14.8 acres of land in December 2011. This major project for Soitec represents an investment of more than $150 million.

The company has completed on schedule an extensive upgrade of the facilities to install fully automated manufacturing equipment and processes. The first module was produced in October, and the first phase (140 MWp) of the production line is now operational, as initially planned. The factory has been designed to reach 280 MWp in capacity when in full production.

M+W U.S., Inc, a subsidiary of the M+W Group - an engineering and construction partner for technology-based clients and renowned in constructing solar cell manufacturing facilities, was the general contractor for the facility construction work. At the peak of construction, over 280 people were employed on the site.

The factory should create 450 jobs at full capacity, including employees for the joint venture Reflexite Soitec Optical Technology, LLC. This new company operates a manufacturing operation within the facility developing and manufacturing leading- edge silicone-on-glass (SOG) Fresnel lens plates used in Soitec’s CPV modules.

“I want to congratulate Soitec on the opening of its factory here in San Diego, and thank the many organisations and individuals who worked together to help bring the company to San Diego. The city, CleanTECH San Diego, the Regional EDC, UC San Diego and SDG&E combined their resources to show Soitec that San Diego was as enticing as any other region in the desert Southwest, and as a result Soitec chose to bring 450 new jobs to San Diego and invest in the future of their company here because of our green credentials and our leadership in renewable energy," comments San Diego Mayor Bob Filner.

With this manufacturing plant, Soitec will become one of the top three manufacturers of solar modules in the USA. This will help Soitec provide cost-effective renewable energy systems and put the company in an ideal position to support its customers with a dedicated local team.

“By producing high volumes of CPV modules at this facility, we are now able to help California meet its renewable energy goals and further support the US market. Soitec already manages six factories around the world, and this gives us strong expertise in industrial processes, manufacturing and quality systems. We have also installed CPV systems in 14 countries on 4 continents. I am very pleased and honored that we can now offer the full benefits of this know-how in meeting US needs," says André-Jacques Auberton-Hervé, chairman and CEO of Soitec.

Soitec’s CPV technology uses triple-junction cells mounted on a glass plate. Fresnel lenses (manufactured using silicone on glass) concentrate sunlight 500 times before it reaches these cells, which convert it into electricity.

A metal frame holds two glass plates to form highly robust, durable and resilient modules. By combining several modules on biaxial trackers (based on a Soitec proprietary algorithm automatically optimising their position based on the path of the sun), maximises energy generation throughout the day.

With yields of 30% from its CPV modules, Soitec achieves at least twice the performance of conventional photovoltaic technologies. Combined with low installation and maintenance costs, this leading efficiency is making CPV technology the most cost-efficient solution for high-volume power generation in regions with high direct normal irradiation (DNI).

 



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