Hurricane Maria moves Solartech Universal’s expansion to South Florida

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Midway through 2017, high-efficiency solar manufacturer Solartech Universal, of Riviera Beach, Florida, announced a planned expansion into Puerto Rico. The company hoped to add up to 180 MW/year of production capacity. Those plans have now shifted to the continental United States as a result of Hurricane Maria hitting Puerto Rico, and the company is now seeking space in South Florida to fulfill its needs.

SolarTech Universal’s existing Riviera Beach facility has a single shift running on its 80MW/year line. The company says that it is currently hiring a 2nd shift which will start work next month, and that hiring for a 3rd shift will begin soon. The second shift hiring was announced in August of 2017, along with hopes of getting the Puerto Rico facility online in 2018.

In statements to pv magazine, the company said Section 201 uncertainty slowed their expansions plans.

Nathan Rosenstein, the companies Director of Marketing, was proud to point out that in California’s solar panel testing and approval process, their 320W solar module had the highest PTC rating in the 300W-320W class of solar panels. Rosenstein said this testing results, along with buying hardware from leaders like Meyer Burger, represented the company’s goal of delivering a higher quality product versus the cheapest.

The 320W version from this line of products is listed as “coming soon” on Solartech’s website.

The new 180MW/year production line is being supplied by Swiss tool maker Meyer Burger. The solar cells are heterojunction – a standard silicon solar cell, with thin layer of amorphous silicon (thin film) finely layered atop, tuned to specific light waves. Meyer Burger says such designs represent the “solar cell of the future” (PDF).

SolarTech also makes use of the equipment maker’s SmartWire technology – first signing with Meyer Burger back in 2014, long before it was cool to get rid of busbars.

When Meyer Burger recently proclaimed that heterojunction was ready for the mainstream, and showed off a 335W solar panel, it was actually a Solartech Universal solar panel being shown off. The champion solar cell efficiency broke 24%, and the panel just above 20%.

The company has shown off a 72 cell bifacial, glass on glass panel that it labeled as having 462W potential. pv magazine has also seen data showing this panel, in its own testing facilities, and under perfect albedo conditions, hitting an output of 500W.

The company currently doesn’t offer a 72 cell solar panel for sale, but is considering doing so as part of its expansion.