Mexico's Solartec opens up shop in Texas

Mexican PV manufacturer Solartec will invest a reported $31 million to set up a production facility in Houston, Texas.

The company has acquired French solar panel maker Tournaire Solaire Energie and will move the plant to Houston as part of its efforts to expand its presence in the U.S.

The plant will be 100% automated and have in its first phase an annual capacity of 30,000 kW, which Solartec said would generate 20 direct jobs and a significant number of indirect jobs.

The company — Latin America’s only solar cell manufacturer — expects the U.S. plant to generate 202,500 megawatt hours in the next five years, enough to supply 160,000 American households, and further anticipates sales to reach some $285 million in the same period.

Solartec acquired Tournaire Solaire Energie after the French company was hit by a number of setbacks, including increased competition from lower priced Chinese modules and the cancellation by the French government of subsidies for PV projects, according to Solartec President and Director General Gustavo Tomé.

"This new acquisition will not only benefit Solartec’s margins by allowing for better prices for its products, but also in the integration of a value chain that will make us even more competitive in the markets of Latin America, China and the United States,” Tomé said.

Solartec is currently setting up the Houston plant, which it expects to begin operation in January.

In July, Solartec also acquired Bosch Solar’s wafer-making equipment in the wake of the German manufacturer’s withdrawal from the solar business last year. The production line has a 30-million-wafer annual capacity. The acquisition generated synergies that allowed the vertical integration of Solartec and a substantial improvement of its products, the company said. Last year Solartec also took over Belgian firm Photovoltech, which it transplanted to the Apolo Industrial Park in Irapuato, Guanajuato.

In addition to Mexico and its growing presence in the U.S., the company is active in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Puerto Rico, Guatemala and Colombia.