Sunlogics expands manufacturing capacity; announces strategic plans

Today marks the handover of Phoenix Solar Holdings Corp.’s, and its operating subsidiaries, including EPV Solar Germany GmbH and New Millennium Solar Equipment Corp.’s, 30 megawatt (MW) amorphous silicon thin film manufacturing plant to U.S.-based Sunlogics.

Located in Brandenburg’s Senftenberg, the factory employees 90 people at full capacity and covers an area of over 55,000 square meters. According to Michael Matvieshen, Sunlogics’ CEO, the next 12 months will see the factory’s facilities upgraded to become more automated. It is thought that up to USD$6 million will be invested in additional, proprietary manufacturing technology.

In addition to manufacturing modules in Brandenburg, the company says the site will also serve as its European base. In the future, Sunlogics will expand its activities in this area and has announced that it will start up a solar business development team in 2012 for the European solar markets.

Matvieshen went on to say that the cost of the modules manufactured at the German facility is expected to be around USD$1.20 per watt. "We know that there are module suppliers in China that are selling modules at a $1 per watt," he said, "[but] when you take into account the transportation costs and product reliability questions, we’re confident that any slight differential in net pricing we’ll be able to manage."

US plans

Sunlogics has also acquired a 20 MW photovoltaic module manufacturing facility in New Jersey, the U.S., also from Phoenix Solar. It plans to relocate the acquired equipment from New Jersey to its new headquarters in Detroit, Michigan.

"Our head office has moved in there. Our engineering department is there and some of our construction people are there now. Management is being ramped up literally daily," said Matvieshen.He added that the first modules are expected to be produced there in the first quarter of 2012.

In terms of how the company will be able to manufacture competitively in the face of strong Asian competition, Matvieshen explained, "There’s been significant progress in technology and manufacturing techniques. Globally speaking, the more automated you are, the less sensitive you are to manufacturing cost differentials in different countries."

He added, "… We want to control at least 30 percent of our annual demand [and] we want to have that manufacturing capacity in house."

Overall, the transaction with Phoenix Solar included investments by GLG Partners LP, Tenor Capital, Atlas Investment Fund and Catalyst Investment Management Co LLC. The financial terms were not disclosed, but Sunlogics did receive a USD$6 million equity investment.

Matvieshen added that Sunlogics is looking at additional manufacturing capacity in Asia. Currently the company, established in 2010, has an annual manufacturing capacity of 50 MW – due to its Phoenix Solar acquisition. He said, "I think more than likely any expansion that we do in manufacturing will probably be through acquisition – at least for the next 12 months."

Project pipelines

Sunlogics is a fully integrated solar player and, as such, has a number of photovoltaic projects in the pipeline, and joint ventures (JVs) under way.

Significantly, General Motors (GM) became a stakeholder in Sunlogics in July. As such, the company is carrying out a number of projects for GM in China, Mexico and North America. While Matvieshen would not disclose any project specifics, he did say, "GM initially wanted to put in 30 MW. We’re substantially past that now in the pipeline."

He added that the solar company is currently installing its first solar charging station in China for GM. "The foundations went in on September 9 and it should be finished early next week," said Matvieshen.

Sunlogics also has strategic partnerships with Tremco, a large roofing concern in the U.S., which has around 800 million square feet under management, and which is now selling Sunlogics’ Rooftop Solar Install, and Energizer.

For Energizer, Sunlogics is installing solar charging stations, and ground-mount and rooftop photovoltaic projects, in addition to undertaking a home solar initiative under the Energizer brand.

Furthermore, the solar company is in the process of installing an eight MW ground-mount project in Canada for International Power.

Asian dreams

Not unaware of the potential strength of the Chinese solar market, Sunlogics is also creating a number of strategic partnerships with Chinese companies.

For example, the company has formed a JV with China Triumph International Engineering Co., Shanghai (CTIEC) for engineering, construction, procurement and finance. Moreover, it has signed an agreement for for co-ownership of solar technology and module manufacturing with China National Building Materials Co., Shanghai (CNBM).

Through the JV agreements with CTIEC and CNBM, which are just being finalized, Sunlogics aims to develop solar projects in China, Asia and Africa.

In terms of investment for its global plans, the company is confident it has a strong position. "We have a fairly good investor base," stated Matvieshen. "We have some funds that are invested in our company and GM is invested in our company. We think that financing won’t be quite the challenge for us as it has been for a lot of other solar companies. We’re going to find out as we get into the market."

He concluded by saying, "We’re very excited about the solar market. We think that there’s a lot of opportunity, especially with the entrance of the Chinese into the manufacturing game. That’s going to create a ton of opportunity for consolidation and we’re looking forward to being a significant player in that."