Schott AG Builds Solar Products Plant in New Mexico

Schott AG of Mainz, Germany, has broken ground on a new 190,000 square-foot manufacturing facility for Schott Solar, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Schott. The site, located in the Mesa del Sol region of Albuquerque, will produce both photovoltaic (PV) modules and receivers for concentrated solar thermal power plants (CSP). Production is expected to begin as early as spring 2009. Schott Solar will invest approximately $100 million to start production in New Mexico.

Anticipating the need to increase production of its solar power technologies as the market for renewable energy in the U.S. grows, the new site is designed to support expansion of both its photovoltaic module and solar receiver lines. Long-term plans call for the building to expand to 800,000 square feet with employment reaching 1,500 people, representing a total investment of $500 million.

At the groundbreaking, Schott Solar unveiled the ambitious timeline for the opening of the facility, which sits on 80 acres of land. Currently, the site is being graded and prepared for construction. Immediately following the completion of the permitting and approval process, construction will begin. The building is scheduled to be completed at the end of the summer. Installation of the manufacturing equipment and interior prep will follow.

The first receiver, a critical component for concentrated solar power plants, is expected to be available for sale in March 2009.

The PTR-70 receivers represent the latest in technological advancements for the surging CSP industry. The receiver contains an outer “envelope” glass tube which has an anti-reflective coating. Inside, in an evacuated, sealed environment, is a steel tube covered by an absorptive coating. It is inside this steel tube that a heat transfer fluid (HTF) flows when heated by the sun. This fluid, when heated by the sun, is then used to turn water into steam, which drives a turbine, generating electricity.

In April 2009, the first photovoltaic panel manufactured for sale is scheduled to roll off the production line. The 220-watt, single-pane PV panel will be similar to products produced at the company’s European manufacturing facilities.

The Albuquerque site will have an initial annual production capacity of 64MW of PV panels. Additional PV manufacturing lines will be added to the facility to meet market demand.

Initially, the 190,000 square-foot facility will have 175,000 square feet allocated to production and 15,000 square feet of office space. The receiver line will occupy nearly double the space of the PV line (115,000/ 60,000 respectively).

Future growth at the facility is planned by Schott Solar, which will bring total employment up to 1,500, and Schott’s total investment to approximately $500M.

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