Solar, Utility Integration

Suntech Starts Construction of Shanghai Thin Film Plant

Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. has begun construction on a thin film R&D and manufacturing facility in Caohejing Hi-tech Park in Shanghai, China. The first phase of the new plant is expected to be operational in 2008, reaching 50 megawatts (MW) of thin film solar cell production capacity in 2009.

Suntech’s thin film module production will be based on technology that deposits amorphous and microcrystalline silicon thin film on glass substrate. The product will use less than 2% of the silicon required to manufacture equivalent crystalline silicon PV products. The thin film modules will be nearly 6 square meters in size, which would make the balance of system installation costs of Suntech’s thin film solution significantly lower than other PV solutions.

Suntech currently projects that the thin film modules will have a solar conversion efficiency of 6% to 9% and an initial production cost of approximately $1.20 per watt (based on 6% solar conversion efficiency), which is forecasted to continue to decline as both production scale and conversion efficiencies increase.

“We plan to combine our thin film product with MSK’s BIPV product thereby capturing a greater portion of the PV value chain in a higher margin, higher ASP and higher value added product segment,” said Dr. Zhengrong Shi, Suntech’s Chairman and CEO. Suntech acquired Japan’s MSK Corporation in 2006, establishing its presence in the building integrated photovoltaic products (BIPV) market. Suntech also recently signed an LOI with Open Energy to manufacture Open Energy’s SolarSave PV Tiles for the U.S. BIPV market.

“While BIPV is currently a relatively small segment of the overall solar market, it is one which we expect will grow rapidly in the coming years,” added Dr. Shi. “Low projected production costs, which are projected to continue to fall from a very low base, when combined with growing residential and commercial demand for our leading BIPV solutions, will help make our products very competitive.”