As SoloPower opens new plant in OR it readies for DOE Loan Guarantee

SoloPower's flexible CIGS modules being installedSoloPower is preparing to receive dispersement of a $197 million U.S. DOE Loan Guarantee. Federal loan guarantees supporting solar manufacturing have gone the way of the Dodo since the demise of Solyndra, but SoloPower was grandfathered into the program, and as it prepares to open its new manufacturing facility this Thursday (Sep. 27), it’s still on target to receive the loan guarantee, which was designed to make it easier for the San Jose-based startup to attract financing.

SoloPower manufactures copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS)-based, flexible photovoltaics designed to fit on rooftops like warehouse rooftops. When the manufacturing facility opens this Thursday it will be capable of producing roughly 5 megawatts in the last quarter of 2012, according to a source familiar with the company. However, the company has plans to ramp up production as demand for the unique PV product picks up. It anticipates building up to 400 megawatts of production capacity at the site and employing up to 450 people.

The thin-film modules that SoloPower will produce won’t be as efficient as those made by silicon PV manufacturers. This past spring they set a flexible CIGS record at 13.4 percent efficiency, but they’re designed for a specific application that uses traditional roofing installation techniques to bring down costs. “SoloPanels can be installed in a dense formation quickly and easily using products and tools well-known in the roofing industry, so the cost per area compares very favorably to panels with even higher efficiencies,” said the source.

It’s also inline to receive dispersement of a $197 million DOE Loan Guarantee, the program intended to help companies using or creating new technologies bridge the gap between research and development and commercialization. But the program was maligned and abandoned after the failure of Solyndra. Still, “SoloPower is on track with its plan to make solar energy the preferred power source for the world's commercial and industrial buildings,” the source said. “The company will draw on the DOE funds only after the first HVM [i.e., high-volume manufacturing] line is up and meeting certain metrics per the terms of the agreement.” 

The company will likely have to push hard to make sure manufacturing meets demand. “SoloPower already has more demand than capacity and will expand as fast as they can to meet international demand,” the source said. As such it will likely achieve the loan guarantee sooner than later. 

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