Soitec’s new manufacturing facility in San Diego got a $25 million boost this week from the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative’s SUNPATH (Scaling Up Nascent PV At Home) program. The investment will help the France-based company start producing concentrating photovoltaic modules at its new facility by the end of 2012.
“We will be producing at the end of the year and will be ramping up production at the end of the year,” said Clark Crawford, Soitec vice president of Sales and Business Development U.S. The manufacturing equipment at the plant comes from around the globe, including the U.S. Once completed, the facility will be capable of producing 200 megawatts of Soitec’s latest CPV modules. The facility is expected to create 450 manufacturing positions and create 1,000 indirect positions.
Soitec is currently using gallium arsenide PV cells from third parties for its concentrator technology, the same type used in space to power satellites and terrestrially to power CPV systems. But that’s likely to change in the future. “Soitec is developing our own solar cell…when we can make a better cell in the future we will be manufacturing our own cell,” Crawford said.
The SunShot SUNPATH grant will help the company scale up at the new, $150 million facility quicker, according to Crawford. The facility will be fully automated and will produce Soitec’s fifth generation CPV modules. “The module is much larger.…The module is about 8 feet by 12 feet, about the size of a garage door,” he said.
Each module produces more than 2 kilowatts and by pre-assembling the larger modules it and reduces the cost of assembly in the field where 12 of the units are mounted on a two-axis tracking system that produces 29 kilowatts. “Our system is for ground mount solar farms,” Crawford said.
The facility already has a large pipeline with Sand Diego, according to Crawford. “Our modules will supply over 300 megawatts with contracts with San Diego Gas and Electric,” he said. The facility will produce modules both for the U.S. market and for markets throughout the Pacific rim.