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Suniva begins production, announces plans for second solar-cell line

By Tom Cheyney, Nov 04, 2008

Suniva confirmed that it has successfully begun production on its 32-MW monocrystalline solar-cell production line in Norcross, GA. The company also said that it plans to install a second fab line next year with double the manufacturing capacity of the first line and will continue its turnkey partnership with centrotherm photovoltaics.  Once the new line is completed in mid-2009, the company will have a total cell-production capacity of 96 MW-peak, with both of the initial lines combining centrotherm integrated equipment and Suniva’s proprietary fabrication techniques. The cell manufacturer said it plans to push the capacity in its first factory to about 175 MWp by early 2010.

The newly completed 32-MWp line (ramped less than 12 months after initial planning) produces Suniva’s ARTisun solar cells, which are sent to module manufacturers to be assembled into high-efficiency solar modules. The company sells PV cells produced at the Norcross facility under existing customer contracts totaling more than $1 billion, with companies including Solon and Titan Energy Systems.

“Suniva’s customized centrotherm production lines allow us to manufacture state-of-the-art solar cells while also keeping the flexibility to incorporate additional innovations in the future,” said John Baumstark, Suniva’s CEO  “Partnering with industry leader centrotherm photovoltaics allows us to quickly and responsibly scale to meet our existing contracts and future market demand.”

“As an equipment supplier to Suniva, we quickly recognized the company’s potential for providing leading solar-cell technology and are proud to join forces in striving towards grid parity,” said Peter Fath, CTO of centrotherm photovoltaics. “Today’s announcement of Suniva’s second centrotherm production line positions our two companies as solid leaders of growth in U.S.-based solar manufacturing.”

Suniva’s manufacturing technique, which was developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s University Center of Excellence for Photovoltaics, includes several optimized process steps that enhance the devices’ light-trapping capabilities, producing what the company calls one of the industry’s most efficient solar cells.

Earlier this year, Suniva produced cells in the lab with better than 20% conversion efficiency, verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a world record for low-cost, screen-printed solar cells. As part of efforts to ensure its materials supply chain, Suniva signed a five-year monocrystalline wafer supply deal with REC in July.