Large Solar Wafer Production Operation Destined for Germany

Prime Solar Pty Ltd., a Perth based company, will set up a manufacturing facility in Germany to produce 680 megawatts (MW) per year of silicon wafers at an estimated project cost of US $525 million. The facility will operate 24 hours a day and offer more than 1,000 full-time employment opportunities.

The wafers produced by Prime Solar will be used in the manufacturing of silicon solar cells by Q-Cells of Germany. The first phase of the project of 50 MW per annum capacity will be set up at Thalheim, Germany’s Solar Valley, approximately 50 km north of Leipzig, in 2006-2007 with a total project cost of US $45 million. A total of 81,000 meters-squared of land has been earmarked for Prime Solar at the Micro Technology Park at Thalheim just next to the manufacturing facility of Q-Cells. The land will be sufficient to accommodate all the expansion requirements of Prime Solar until 2014. The German Government has welcomed the initiative of Prime Solar and will provide up to 45% nonrefundable grants. Negotiations are being held with the Commerzbank for debt funding and working capital. Prime Solar has recently entered into an agreement with Q-Cells to supply up to 100% of its wafer production for ten years. Q-Cells is the world’s second largest manufacturer of mono- and multicrystalline solar cells. In 2005, Q-Cells produced 165.7 MW of solar cells. This represents a 118% increase over the 75.9 MW solar cells manufactured the year before. The starting material to manufacture silicon wafers is chunks or granules of chemically ultra-pure polycrystalline silicon, of purity close to that required by the semiconductor industry. The solar industry has historically taken off-specification material that is rejected by the semiconductor industry. In recent years, due to the overstripping of the silicon demand of the semiconductor industry by the solar photovoltaics (PV) industry, polysilicon is being used directly by the manufacturers of the wafers, hence polysilicon has become a scarce commodity. However, Prime Solar is in the process of securing a polysilicon supply. In order to secure a long-term polysilicon supply for its wafers-manufacturing facility, Prime Solar is currently investigating a new process to manufacture solar-grade silicon that will have 99.9999% purity and will use locally available metallurgical-grade silicon. A new subsidiary company named Prime Solar Silicon will be created soon to undertake the solar-grade silicon manufacturing project in Western Australia. Prime Solar has also started its first subsidiary company, Prime Solar Power Pty Ltd., to design, develop and own large-scale solar power generation projects. This new entity has commenced work to undertake a 2 MW solar PV fringe-of-the-grid project at Perenjori, 350 kilometers north of Perth and another 10 MW Solar Park project at Perth. By adopting such an integrated approach, Prime Solar’s aim is to become a leading solar PV company having its manufacturing range from solar-grade silicon through to solar PV modules, and system integration and project development of large-scale power generation projects.
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