Thalheim, Germany [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] EverQ GmbH, a joint venture of three major players in the solar power industry, marked the official opening of its first production facility in Thalheim, Germany. The ribbon-cutting celebration included the joint venture partners, German and U.S. government officials, solar industry leaders and EverQ employees.EverQ is a strategic partnership of Evergreen Solar, Inc. (United States), Q-Cells AG (Germany), and Renewable Energy Corporation ASA (Norway). Evergreen Solar develops, manufactures and markets solar power products using its proprietary String Ribbon technology. Q-Cells says it is the world’s largest independent manufacturer of crystalline silicon solar cells. Renewable Energy Corporation ASA (REC) bills itself as the world’s largest manufacturer of solar-grade silicon and multicrystalline wafers. “Location was an important factor in our decision to develop the EverQ plant,” said Anton Milner, Chief Executive Officer of Q-Cells AG. “We’re now producing high-quality photovoltaic products in the country that is clearly the world’s solar energy leader: Germany.” Locally, the 70.5 million Euro [US$89 million] EverQ facility has already evolved into an important economic engine in the area near Bitterfeld. To date, 260 workers are employed at the 16,400-square meter production facility — larger than the area of two soccer fields. The number of employees is expected to increase to more than 300 when the full production capacity of 30 MW is achieved. The new Thalheim plant was supported by a 27.5 million Euro [US$34.7 million] grant from the Federal Republic of Germany. EverQ uses Evergreen Solar’s unique String Ribbon wafer technology, which the company says requires nearly 50 percent less silicon than conventional sliced crystalline technologies. EverQ, which exclusively manufactures Evergreen’s powerful Spruce Line of photovoltaic (PV) panels, achieves operational efficiencies by producing solar wafers, cells and modules under one roof at its Thalheim plant. EverQ is already planning a major expansion in Thalheim as a result of the recently announced execution of a binding memorandum of understanding with REC. Groundbreaking for a second integrated wafer, cell and module manufacturing plant — with a capacity of 50 MW — is expected later this year. With REC committing to supply a total of 7,400 metric tons of silicon over seven years beginning in 2008, EverQ plans to increase its current production capacity from 30 MW to approximately 300 MW by 2010 and possibly as early as the second half of 2009.