Soitec Solar, a French-based firm, invested $150 million in a 176,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Rancho Bernardo, California, a San Diego suburb, to produce photovoltaic or CPV modules for the U.S. renewable-energy market, with estimates of creating 450 jobs.
The firm was recently awarded a $25 million U.S. Department of Energy SUNPATH grant to support its project on 15 acres near Rancho Bernardo Roadand I-15. SUNPATH, which stands for Scaling Up Nascent PV At Home, seeks to increase America's manufacturing competitiveness in the global solar market.
"This SUNPATH award will accelerate the production and output of Soitec's first large-scale CPV module manufacturing facility in San Diego," said Clark Crawford vice president of Sales and Business Development USA.
"The decision of the DOE to award Soitec with the largest share of the SUNPATH award provides a strong endorsement of our CPV technology," added Gaetan Borgers, Executive VP of Soitec Solar Energy Division. "The SUNPATH award adds support to our view that CPV is best-suited for regions with extremely hot ambient temperatures and dry weather conditions like the American Southwest."
CPV technology converts sunlight directly into electricity through concentrator optics and high-efficiency solar cells. According to the firm, this process offers the best design for use in sunny regions, delivering low-cost, reliable, and environmentally-friendly solar generated electricity.
According to the Department of Energy, Soitec will be developing a larger module to reduce installation costs while implementing improved system optics to further increase the efficiency levels of the solar panels.
"Soitec's local presence is indeed a welcome boost for our regional economy and will support our company's commitment to help to ensure a sustainable solar future for our customers," said Jessie J. Knight, Jr., San Diego Gas & Electric's chairman and CEO. "This year we have signed a half-dozen renewable energy contracts with solar developers that will use Soitec's highly efficient technology. We will continue to make great strides in securing contracts for utility-scale renewable projects to leverage the ideal solar, geothermal and wind resources in the San Diego County, Imperial County and Baja California region."
"Having already announced our solar projects contracted with San Diego Gas & Electric, it makes perfect sense for us to launch our U.S. manufacturing operations here," said André Jacques Auberton-Hervé, chairman and CEO of Soitec. "With strong support from the mayor and the City of San Diego, we look forward to taking part in the local economy amid the area's large pool of trained and educated high-tech employees, the vibrant business community and the strong cluster of renewable-energy companies."