Thin Film Solar Company Picks Oregon

Thin-film solar panel manufacturer SoloPower is giving Oregon’s battered economy a boost, announcing it will locate a new plant in Wilsonville, a town about 20 miles south of Portland.  The company said readying the manufacturing line will create 170 jobs and that when production gears up some 500 people will work at the plant.

In an environment in which states compete for business, this coup for Oregon didn’t come without cost. San Jose-based SoloPower is in line to receive a $20 million loan from the state as well as a $20 million state tax credit. SoloPower is also looking to Washington, D.C., for assistance, seeking a loan guarantee under Section 1703 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to support the construction of the additional production lines.

Thin-film solar panel manufacturer SoloPower

image via SoloPower

SoloPower specializes in making thin and flexible Copper-Indium-Gallium-Selenide (CIGS) panels, distinct from the traditional photovoltaic panels made from rigid multi-crystalline silicon wafers. But the company takes things a step further in claiming a lower-cost, higher-quality and higher-volume proprietary electrochemical process for making the CIGS panels.

The company’s bet – and Oregon’s in supporting the company – is that in using this process at sufficient volume, they’ll be able to produce panels that are commercially viable. Upon completion, the company said it expects the Wilsonville plant to cost $340 million and have a nameplate capacity of 300 megawatts.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.