Four months after acquiring the former SolarWorld Americas facility in Hillsboro, Oregon, SunPower has the plant up and running, to the tune of 220 MW of annual production capacity.
The company has begun production of its novel P-Series solar modules. The P-Series module features slices of crystalline silicon cells arranged in vertical strips, which are then shingled on top of one another, delivering an impressive 19% efficiency at the module. The P-Series modules are slightly larger than a standard 72-cell module and much cheaper than SunPower’s E-Series and X-Series products, while delivering a power rating of 390-395 watts.
The factory features a workforce of around 200, which is down from the 700 that SolarWorld Americas had working when production was at its peak.
“Today we celebrate the revival of American solar panel manufacturing as SunPower’s high-quality P19 product starts coming off the line in Oregon,” said Tom Werner, SunPower CEO and chairman of the board in a release announcing the production. “Now that we’re in full production, we look forward to meeting our strong U.S. commercial market demand with these high-performance American-assembled panels.”
Now not to downplay Werner’s excitement, but he may be getting ahead of himself dubbing this factory to be “the revival of American solar panel manufacturing.” 220 MW is nice, better than nice, really, but it doesn’t compare to the 3.7 GW across 4 factories that are underway and expected to come on-line later this year, all of which are larger plants. These include the 1.6 GW Hanwha Q Cells factory planned for Georgia, the 1.2 GW First Solar factory under construction in Ohio, LG’s 500 MW factory in Alabama and the 400 MW JinkoSolar plant in Jacksonville, Florida.
To go back to the P-Series, it’s really an interesting piece of technology. Because the cells are shingled on top of one another, the conductive adhesive between the cells does not have the same issues with thermal expansion that other modules on the market have with their as copper ribbons between cells. The P-Series are manufactured with the intent of being used in commercial and industrial installations. They also feature SunPower’s confident standard of a 25-year warranty.
One last interesting note is that the 220 MW capacity mark gives this factory the distinction of having the largest capacity of shingled solar cell production known to pv magazine, and definitely the biggest in the United States or anywhere outside of China.