SolarWorld Industries Americas has announced that it is investing US$10 million in expanding its PV cell and module capacities at its factory in the U.S. state of Oregon, to take effect in 2015.
This will include adding a PV module line to increase its capacity from 380 MW to 530 MW, as well as converting 100 MW of its PV cell production to passivated emitter rear contact (PERC) technology.
SolarWorld Strategic Affairs Director Ben Santarris estimates that the facility’s current 335 MW of PERC cell capacity is producing cells with efficiencies in the high 19 percent range. He expects this to cross over the 20% barrier in 2015, and stresses that the purpose of the expansion is to add capacity.
With the PERC cell expansion, SolarWorld expects to be able to produce 60-cell monocrystalline PV modules rated at least 280 watts. The company also describes the module expansion as a stepping stone to 630 MW at the Hillsboro site in the near future.
These investments come as SolarWorld is showing definitive recovery from the multi-year collapse in prices that affected the entire global PV cell and module industry. After three years of heavy losses SolarWorld reported an 19% operating margin in the first nine months of 2014.
The company not only has by far the largest PV manufacturing footprint in the United States, but also shipped 42% of its product to this market in the third quarter of 2014.
SolarWorld led petitions for both sets of U.S. trade cases against Chinese and now Taiwanese PV in 2012 and 2014. This appears to be of benefit to the company, as it is taking a portion of the market share from the decline in Chinese imports.
With the factory expansion, SolarWorld will add 200 jobs, to return the company to a total of 900 at the site. The last investment that SolarWorld made in the Hillsboro factory was in 2012, when it invested $27 million to convert to cell lines to PERC technology.