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20 December 2012

Soitec opens $150m San Diego factory to locally produce CPV modules

Less than a year after acquiring it Sony Electronics Inc in December 2011, Soitec of Bernin, France has opened its North American concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) module manufacturing facility in San Diego after completing on schedule an extensive upgrade to install fully automated manufacturing equipment and processes in a project representing a total investment of more than $150m. M+W US Inc (a subsidiary of global engineering and construction firm M+W Group) was the general contractor for facility construction.

Sited on 14.8 acres of land, the 176,000-square-foot manufacturing center produced its first module in October. The first phase (140MWp) of the production line is now operational, as initially planned. The factory has been designed to reach 280MWp in capacity at full production.

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

At the peak of construction, more than 280 people were employed on site. At full capacity, the factory should create 450 jobs, including employees for the joint venture Reflexite Soitec Optical Technology LLC, which was formed in November 2011 with Reflexite Energy Solutions Inc of Avon, CT, USA (a global supplier of microstructured optical components for the solar power, lighting, instrumentation and display industries). The JV runs a manufacturing operation within the facility developing and making silicone-on-glass (SOG) Fresnel lens plates used in Soitec’s CPV modules.

Soitec’s CPV technology uses triple-junction photovoltaic cells mounted on a glass plate. Silicone-on-glass Fresnel lenses concentrate sunlight 500 times before it reaches these cells. A metal frame holds two glass plates to form the modules. By combining several modules on biaxial trackers (based on a proprietary algorithm automatically optimizing their position based on the path of the sun), energy generation is maximized throughout the day, says Soitec. With yields of 30%, the CPV modules achieve at least twice the performance of conventional photovoltaic technologies, claims Soitec.

Soitec reckons that its new plant will make it one of the top three manufacturers of solar modules in the USA, as well as positioning it to support 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,” said chairman & CEO AndrĂ©-Jacques Auberton-HervĂ©. “Soitec already manages six factories around the world, and this gives us strong expertise in industrial processes, manufacturing and quality systems,” he added. “We have also installed CPV systems in 14 countries on four continents.”

“The city, CleanTECH San Diego, the Regional EDC [Economic Development Corporation], University of California San Diego and SDG&E [San Diego Gas & Electric Company] combined their resources to show Soitec that San Diego was as enticing as any other region in the desert Southwest,” commented San Diego mayor Bob Filner at the facility’s Grand Opening.

Tags: Soitec CPV


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