The increase in panel production capacity will be implemented in two stages says the company, the first of which is planned for the fourth quarter of this year with the scheduled installation of automated assembly equipment. The installation will take the capacity from an annual production of 13 megawatts (MW) to 20 MW by early next year.
Depending on continued demand, continues the company, the second stage of equipment upgrades will occur in the middle of next year. If it goes ahead, the company will increase its annual panel production capacity to approximately 35 MW.
This is good news for Silexsolar, CEO Dr. Michael Goldsworthy said. With the Australian residential rooftop panel market growing strongly from 80 MW in 2009 to a forecast 130 MW in 2010, we have seen very strong demand for our Australian-made PV panels across the country. With margins in the global PV market tight, it is important that we increase our production capacity and improve solar cell efficiency in order to remain competitive.
In parallel with the panel assembly line expansion, the company says it is also developing higher efficiency solar cell technology at the SOP plant in collaboration with the University of NSW and Suntech Power under a research program, which was recently awarded AUD$5 million funding from the Australian Solar Institute.
This project aims to increase solar cell efficiency from around 17 percent to approximately 20 percent by 2012, which would potentially increase the plant panel production capacity from 35 MW per annum to approximately 40MW per annum.
The SOP plant is also planning to ramp up cell production towards the maximum existing capacity of up to 50 MW per annum. Overseas sales of this excess cell capacity are anticipated to commence in the first half of next year. If this is the case, says the4 company,the plant will potentially generate revenues in the order of AUD$100 million annually in the 2011/12 financial year.
We are also actively pursuing larger commercial scale projects in the range of 20 kW to 200 kW or more, Rod Seares, Silexsolar general manager said. This market is relatively untapped in Australia to date, but presents significant opportunities for us and our prospective commercial project partners going forward. With State and Federal Government renewable energy policies continuing to strengthen, the prospects for Solar Power in Australias energy mix looks increasingly positive, he explained.