One of the larger manufacturers of solar photovoltaic components in the United States will expand its production facilities in Massachusetts.
BILLERICA, Massachusetts – ASE Americas says its plant in Billerica will expand to allow production of solar wafers to increase from 12 to 20 megawatts per year. The expansion follows two major expansions at its facility in Alzenau, Germany, which company officials claim is the result of demand for its solar cells and its 300 watt solar electric modules. “Increasing the volume of our world-leading crystalline silicon, EFG technology will further improve ASE’s cost advantage”, says chief operating officer Tom Zarrella. “With our resource efficient EFG wafer, state-of-the-art continuous cell manufacturing, and large area module, we have made important steps to making solar electricity a widespread source of energy.” The expansion of the Massachusetts plant is expected to be finished by this autumn. “It’s great to see a technology leader from Massachusetts find strong demand in the market,” says U.S. Representative Martin Meehan. “ASE’s innovative technology harnesses the power of the sun to help serve our electricity needs.” ASE is part of the TESSAG group which supplies integrated technical systems and services to the energy sector. It uses advanced technology to manufacture high quality PV wafers, cells and modules. In 1974, Mobil Oil was working on advanced silicon solar cells and its subsidiary, Mobil Solar Energy, decided in 1986 to focus exclusively on the U.S. utility market. In 1994, Mobil decided to leave the PV industry and ASE GmbH of Germany acquired the company’s solar technology and assets. The company now supplies PV modules to electric utilities, the military and telecommunication companies. It has 160 workers and, by 1995, was producing 1 megawatt of solar modules each year. ASE Americas uses a process called edge-defined film-fed growth (EFG), which the company claims is the most efficient in the solar industry. The process melts silicon pellets in furnaces at 1,410 oC, from which hollow eight-sided tubes are grown to a height of 16 feet before they are removed from the furnace. Operators use lasers to cut the cells into four inch squares, which are processed to make electrically active cells. Cells are then sealed in a clear encapsulant material and assembled into modules. Glass on both front and back protects the modules from moisture and breakage.