Mission Solar Energy opens high-efficiency PV cell and module facility in Texas

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Mission Solar Energy is celebrating the opening of its new PV cell and module production facility in the U.S. state of Texas today. The facility in San Antonio represents a US$130 million investment, and will ramp from its current 100 MW of annual production to 200 MW in 2015.

The factory is the result of a deal between Mission’s parent company OCI and the city of San Antonio’s municipal utility CPS. The output of the plant will supply four PV projects that OCI is building in Texas, totaling 320 MW.

CPS will purchase the electricity generated from these and three other projects OCI has built, bringing the total to 400 MW. As part of the deal, OCI agreed to bring manufacturing to San Antonio.

The plant will produce high-efficiency PV based on n-type mono wafers, and GTM Research Lead Upstream Solar Analyst Shyam Mehta says Mission Solar Energy is likely to source its wafers from Nexolon, with makes n-type mono wafers in Korea.

There has been renewed interest in n-type mono wafers recently, including an announcement by SolarCity that it will build “gigawatt-scale” PV production using Silevo’s technology, which uses n-type mono wafers. However, n-type still represents a small portion of total global wafer production.

Mehta says that it is unusual for high-efficiency solar such as is made from n-type wafers to be used for utility-scale PV projects. “SunPower has squeezed the most bang out of its buck with the trackers,” notes Mehta. “Beyond SunPower nobody’s doing it.”

However, Mehta also notes that the OCI projects will only require the first few years’ output from the factory. The facility began producing PV modules in June, and cell production in September. The United States has very limited PV production capacities at present, and Mission Solar Energy’s fab is one of only three commercial-scale crystalline silicon PV cell factories in operation in the nation.