HelioSphera To Build $500 Million Solar Panel in Philadelphia

HelioSphera plans to spend $500 million to build a solar panel factory in Philadelphia. The city is offering to help offset the cost.

The private Greek company will start building the 500,000-squarefoot factory in the Navy Yard next year, and expects to start operatingit in 2011, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Philadelphia is offering $49 million in grants and loans to HelioSphera.

Funded by Plainfield Asset Management and Sciens Capital Management, HelioSphera only recently openeda 60-megawatt factory in Tripoli. That factory uses equipment fromOerlikon Solar in Switzerland to make solar panels that feature a layerof amorphous silicon and a layer of microcrystaline silicon.

HelioSphera expects to reach 30 megawatts of annual production nextyear and 60 megawatts in 2011, said Chris O’Brien, head of the NorthAmerica marketing for Oerlikon Solar. 

HelioSphera hasn’t said whether it plans to use Oerlikon’s equipmentfor the Philadelphia factory as well. O’Brien, who spoke at the Thin Film Solar Summit in San Francisco Tuesday, declined to comment.

Clairvoyant Energy announced in September this year that it wouldbuild a 90-megawatt factory in Michigan and roll out solar panels withOerlikon’s equipment (see Oerlikon Solar Tools Coming to America).Clairvoyant, which is applying for a 30 percent federal manufacturingtax credit, expects to close the financing for the factory in 2010,O’Brien said.

A growing number of European and Asian solar companies are openingfactories in the U.S. to take advantage of a growing market and theeconomic stimulus plan by the federal government to give billion ofdollars in grants and loan guarantees to renewable energy equipmentmanufacturers and power plant developers.

Many states have required their utilities to increase theirpurchases of renewable electricity. These states are offering rebatesfor consumers and businesses to install solar energy systems.

Suntech Power of China is planning for a 30-megawatt factory in the Phoenix area. Sanyo of Japan recently opened a silicon ingot and wafer factory in Oregon.

German solar panel makers Solon, SolarWorld and Schott Solar all have recently opened factories in the U.S.

Photo of a HelioSphera production plant near Tripoli, Greece via HelioSphera.

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