With New SD Factory, Soitec Joins Top 3 U.S. Solar Panel Makers

12/19/12Follow @bvbigelow

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encourage foreign companies with “differentiated technologies, innovative products, and efficient business models” to establish manufacturing plants in the United States, said Lidija Sekaric, a DOE administrator at the event and who is overseeing photovoltaic technology development under the DOE’s “SunShot” initiative.

In his prepared remarks, Auberton-Hervé noted that the global population is projected to exceed 9.4 billion by 2050, which would double the existing world demand for energy. Meeting that demand also would require a 50 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions to maintain atmospheric CO2 at current levels, he said.

Soitec’s CPV solar technology is ideal for use in large, utility-scale power plants, where renewable solar energy can be generated more cost effectively, Auberton-Hervé said.

The new San Diego plant currently employs about 125 people, and could employ as many as 450 people if it is expanded to full capacity, according to Auberton-Hervé.

Soitec’s proprietary CPV modules use Fresnel lenses that concentrate sunlight 500 times, focusing the sun’s radiant energy onto high-efficiency photovoltaic semiconductors, which convert the intensified light into DC electricity at 38 percent efficiency. The overall efficiency of the module is lower, however, and produces AC electricity suitable for use on the power grid at a 26 percent efficiency, according to Clark Crawford, Soitec’s U.S. vice president of sales and business development. That is still two to three times more efficient than a conventional photovoltaic solar panel, Crawford says.

Soitec officials said the company plans to ship its first CPV module from the San Diego facility in January.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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