SolarWorld, a world leader in high-quality solar power technology, on October 17 opened North America's largest solar cell manufacturing facility. The new plant is located in Hillsboro, Ore., and is expected to reach a capacity of 500 megawatts (MW) by 2011.
Solar power is increasingly considered the most promising energy alternative because of advances in technology and high-volume manufacturing. Facilities like the one SolarWorld is pioneering will reduce the costs of solar power and increase the number of green jobs, accelerating commercial and residential installations of solar panels and overall economic growth.
"The need for affordable and efficient energy alternatives represents a global issue and is more critical than ever," said Frank A. Asbeck, CEO of SolarWorld. "SolarWorld has more than 30 years invested in solar technologies and today is helping to bring real alternatives to market through a strategy focused on high-volume manufacturing. The new Hillsboro facility is our most shining example of this strategy in practice."
The solar industry is expected to grow to $74 billion in 2017 from $20 billion in 2007, according to a projection by Clean Edge Inc., a market research firm focused on clean technology. SolarWorld's fully integrated solar silicon wafer and solar cell production facility will fuel this burgeoning market. The company expects to employ 1,000 people at the Hillsboro facility by 2011 to meet this increasing demand worldwide.
SolarWorld Hillsboro is a 480,000-square-foot facility, measuring one-quarter mile end-to-end. Raw silicon is transformed through the manufacturing process into solar cells that are shipped to the SolarWorld Camarillo plant where they are processed into solar panels. SolarWorld acquired the Hillsboro factory, which belonged to Japan's Komatsu Group, in March 2007 for $40 million and is investing more than $400 million in the new facility. The Hillsboro plant today becomes home to SolarWorld Industries America headquarters.
"SolarWorld Hillsboro illustrates how we move the needle on delivering solar energy, and on a global economy that is fueled by green jobs," said Boris Klebensberger, chief operations officer. "The Pacific Northwest possesses a hotbed of talent in both silicon manufacturing and clean-technologies. Oregon is the obvious choice for where to undertake this new level of solar cell manufacturing."
Oregon officials, including Governor Ted Kulongoski, Congressmen David Wu and Senator Ron Wyden joined SolarWorld executives and community members on October 17 for a grand opening ceremony that included a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour.
Headquartered in Germany and founded n 1977, SolarWorld is a veteran of the clean tech industry in a sea of startups. The company conducted its IPO in Germany in 1999 when most technology companies were emerged in dotcom. Today, SolarWorld is one of the most successful clean tech companies on the planet. SolarWorld has production facilities in Germany and the United States, including in California, Oregon and Washington, and is establishing a joint venture for module production in South Korea. The company delivers its products to market from sales offices in Germany, Singapore, South Africa, Spain and the United States.