UK: Sunsolar Energy System to build 30 MW fab

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While manufacturers with smaller capacities in places like the U.S., Germany and Australia struggle to make ends meet and some close operations, the opposite is happening in the UK, with an installation company announcing yesterday that it has begun construction on a fab to produce crystalline silicon (c-Si) modules and cells.

Rob Grant, Business Manager for the company embarking on the bold endeavor Sunsolar, told pv magazine that the ability to fill orders quickly and also the emissions savings from not having to transport modules vast distances will be decisive in attracting customers. "It’s widely known that a UK product comes with a quality stamp, so we think that has great potential," said Grant.

Grant reported that equipment orders have been placed, for a module assembly line and also for photovoltaic cell manufacture, and that a building is currently being stripped and prepared for the equipment installation. Sunsolar hopes to see the first modules rolling off the assembly lines in November with the cell manufacture being fully operational by early 2013.

In announcing the GBP5 million in funding for the fab, Climate Change Minster Greg Barker has said that it is "fantastic news". "I want to see many more UK businesses taking the lead in the growing global market for green energy," Barker said in a statement. Sunsolar said it plans to employ around 560 people in construction and in the fab.

Despite cuts to the feed-in tariffs in Britain, Sunsolar has told pv magazine that the photovoltaic market in the country is still very strong. "It’s extremely robust at the moment," said Grant, "there’s been an announcement again about the FIT cuts but I still talk to a lot of clients on commercial premises who feel that [despite the cuts] they can still make it a worthwhile investment."

Sunsolar plans that most of the 30 MW production will supply the UK market but that it hopes to compete on the international market in the future.

Sharp Solar manufactures modules and cells at its Wrexham fab, in North Wales, which has a capacity of 220 MW. It recently moved its UK sales and business operations to the site.