Xunlight finds market for photovoltaics in EuropeWritten by Duane Ramsey | | email@example.com
Executives of Xunlight Corp. returned from the European Photovoltaic Energy Conference held last week with potential markets for the company’s lightweight solar energy products being manufactured at its Toledo operations.
“Our product was very well-received by attendees who showed a lot of interest. We’re very pleased with the attendance, the reception we received and our entire experience in Spain,” said Matt Longthorne, vice president for corporate development and strategy at Xunlight.
Longthorne attended the 23rd European Photovoltaic Solar Conference in Valencia from Sept. 1 to 5 with Xunlight founder and CEO Xunming Deng, Li Wei Xu, vice president of finance and administration, Michael Yang, vice president of manufacturing, and product engineer Jim Young.
“We met with several potential customers and found a significant demand for the products we’re making. Roofing material suppliers and systems integrators in Europe can’t get enough flexible photovoltaic products,” Longthorne said.
Many roofs can’t take the weight of the glass solar modules currently on the market today. The European markets are looking for building integrated photovoltaic, he said.
Europe comprises 75 percent of the global market for photovoltaic products, with Germany consuming 50 percent of that market.
“Our product is the perfect fit for that application. It’s the same product that is in the process of pilot production,” Longthorne said.
Xunlight is operating a two-megawatt roll-to-roll pilot production line and is building a 25 megawatt roll-to-roll line to manufacture flexible and lightweight photovoltaic products. A recent investment of $11 million in financing from new and existing institutional investors is funding the expansion of its manufacturing facilities.
The company expects to sell commercial products by the middle of 2009. The process of getting the photovoltaic product certified in both Europe and the United States requires time.
“Europe has been very aggressive in supporting photovoltaic for alternative energy, much more so than the U.S.,” Longthorne said. “We expect to sell our products where the market is strong.”
Xunlight is not the only solar energy company expanding in the Toledo area.
First Solar Inc. is enlarging its manufacturing operations by adding about 500,000 square feet of production, research and development, and office space to its facilities in Perrysburg.
The expansion is expected to add 134 new jobs to its current work force of 700 in Perrysburg, according to the company.
“Scaling our manufacturing facility while taking advantage of existing infrastructure will incrementally lower the manufacturing cost per watt at a rate comparable to our lowest cost facility in Malaysia,” said Bruce Sohn, president of First Solar. “The expansion of our operations in Ohio is the direct result of the outstanding achievements of our associates and a strong, ongoing partnership with state and local leaders.”
The expansion will add a fourth production line and reconfigure the company’s original pilot line to bring the manufacturing facility to the same four-line layout at its five other plants in Germany and Malaysia. It is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2010 and will increase the annual capacity at the Perrysburg facility to approximately 192 megawatts.
The entire solar energy industry is concerned about the federal solar tax credit that offers a 30 percent credit for investment and is set to expire at the end of 2008, according to Longthorne.
The solar tax credit is part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that was set to expire at the end of 2007, but was extended through 2008.
Proposed legislation to extend the renewable energy credits beyond 2008 suffered a setback in July when House Bill 6049 was blocked by Senate Republicans. Without another extension, the credits would drop to 10 percent in 2009 and to zero after next year, losing $1.7 billion in solar energy tax credits per year.
“It’s very critical to get the tax credit extended,” said Monique Hanis, spokesperson for the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA). “Without those credits, investments in companies like Xunlight and First Solar could be stymied due to an unstable market for expansion in the U.S.”
First Solar is not counting on the federal tax credit for the expansion of its manufacturing facility in Perrysburg, but does use it when building solar installations for large customers, according to a company spokesman.
SEIA president Rhone Resch unveiled the U.S. Department of Energy’s new photovoltaic energy system installed on the roof of its headquarters in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9.
“Solar energy is the only domestic energy technology available that can be widely deployed by the federal government to lower energy costs for taxpayers while improving our energy security,” Resch said.
“Now, Congress must do its part to accelerate the growth of the solar industry by passing an eight-year extension of the solar tax credits, which expire at the end of the year. This modest, common-sense tax credit has helped expand the U.S. solar industry and put Americans back to work. Congress should not leave for the campaign trail without addressing this important national priority.”
Hanis said energy has become a popular public issue since Congress came back from summer recess. Republicans insist on a tax package that includes a much broader support of energy to reduce the cost of oil and gasoline.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Polosi and another group of Democrats and Republicans are trying to put together new energy legislation, according to Hanis.
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur confirmed the House passed HR-6049 that included extension of the federal energy tax credits, but the Senate has not acted on the bill.
Kaptur reported that the Senate’s proposal, S-3125, would actually extend the tax credits for eight years, compared to the six-year extension in the House bill. That Senate bill would apply tax credits for additional forms of alternative energy, such as geothermal, wind turbine and others, for businesses and public utilities.
Another Senate Bill, S-3335 which includes energy tax credits, is still on the Senate’s calendar and could come up for a vote before Congress recesses for the November elections.
The Senate majority and minority leaders agree that the energy tax credits need to be renewed and are trying to reach a compromise on the larger issues of S-3335, according to Sen. George Voinovich’s office.
“We need something to clear the Senate to extend energy tax credits for businesses and homeowners,” Kaptur said. “Our country needs to become more energy-independent at home. The solar market has grown in Toledo and it needs the tax credits to continue that growth.”
The SEIA thinks Congress could pass legislation before it recesses for the elections, but it is expected to adjourn in early October, so time is running short.
In a survey conducted by Solar Power International, 43 percent of nearly 4,000 respondents were confident the federal tax credit will receive a long-term extension before it expires. Thirty percent were not so confident and afraid it won’t happen, while 16 percent are not all confident and don’t believe it will happen.
The Solar Power International will hold its 2008 conference Oct. 13 to 17 in San Diego when Xunlight will be exhibiting its photovoltaic product.