SoloPower to Build
by Jonathan Hiskes
Silicon Valley solar startup SoloPower will build a $340 million photovoltaic manufacturing plant in Wilsonville, Ore., that will eventually employ approximately 500 people and reach a capacity of 300 megawatts.
The San Jose, Calif., manufacturer of flexible thin-film modules made the announcement Thursday after securing a $20 million loan from the Small Scale Energy Loan Program, a renewable-energy promotion program of the Oregon Department of Energy.
The company also is also seeking two more incentives - a Business Energy Tax Credit of $20 million from the state and a United States Department of Energy loan guarantee.
SoloPower chief executive Tim Harris said the company chose the site south of Portland because of the state's interest in the deal, the loan opportunities, and the local workforce's manufacturing experience. German-owned SolarWorld operates North America's largest solar cell manufacturing plant in nearby Hillsboro.
The new plant is an early win for new Governor John Kitzhaber, who took office this month inheriting a 10.6 percent unemployment rate.
"SoloPower is bringing exactly the kind of new jobs Oregon needs," Kitzhaber said in a statement. "By bringing their manufacturing headquarters to Wilsonville, we are continuing on the path toward establishing a stronger clean technology manufacturing base in Oregon."
The first construction phase will create a 75-megawatt manufacturing line with 170 new jobs, the company said.
SoloPower makes thin-film solar energy cells and panels using the semiconductor material compound copper indium gallium selenide, or CIGS. The material is layered directly onto glass and other surfaces, in contrast to silicon cells encased in modules. The company claims that its CIGS technology offers the highest efficiency - up to 19.9 percent - of the three primary thin-film source materials and that its proprietary production method keeps its products cost-competitive.
The company recently raised $51.6 million from backers that include Hudson Clean Energy Partners and Crosslink Capital.
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