Evergreen Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: ESLR), the Marlborro, MA manufacturer of String Ribbon(TM) solar power products announced on September 13 that it had broken ground for its new $165 million, 70 Megawatt (MW), facility in Devens, MA where it will expand production its solar products. This will bring their worldwide production capacity to 170 MW with plans to increase it to 300 MW by 2010.
Its press release states:
The new manufacturing plant will increase Evergreen Solar's production capacity in Massachusetts to 75 MW including 5 MW at it headquarters. In addition it has 90 MW of production capacity at EverQ in Germany, an equal partnership of Evergreen, Q-Cells AG (XETRA: QCE.DE) ( the worlds second largest producer of solar cells in 2005) and Renewable Energy Corporation ASA (OSEAX: REC.OL) (REC) (Q-cells has a long term silicon supply agreement with REC). The Devens facility keeps Evergreen on schedule to increase its production to 300 MW by 2010
Richard M. Feldt, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, noted that the new factory will use the Company's revolutionary Quad furnace technology with its state of the art automated ribbon cutting feature. This innovative wafer production process provides substantial opportunity to further increase yield, cell efficiency and labor productivity as well as to reduce the Company's already industry-leading silicon consumption.
Quoting from its website:
In the String Ribbon technique, high temperature strings are pulled vertically through a shallow silicon melt, and the molten silicon spans and freezes between the strings (diagram left). The process is continuous: long strings are unwound from spools; the melt is replenished; and the silicon ribbon is cut to length for further processing, without interrupting growth. This advantage in material efficiency means String Ribbon yields over twice as many solar cells per pound of silicon as conventional methods. Additionally, the resulting distinctive shape of the solar cell allows for a high packing density. Productivity has been continually increased by increasing the width of the strings, the thickness of the strings, the speed of pulling the strings and the number of strings pulled from a single furnace (now four strings using its Quad furnace technology).
Not to be misleading, thin-film silicon producers use less silicon than Evergreen, Evergreen uses less silicon than conventional multisilcon and crystalline solar cell producers that account for more than 90% of solar cell sales. Evergreen's cells are ~100 micrometer thick compared to 150 micrometer or greater thickness of other producers. Thin-film cells are usually less efficient than conventional cells, which may be important if space requirements are critical, the high efficiency cells requiring less space. Its technology should give them a cost advantage in the conventional silicon cell market. The conviction of the company is proven by the building of this plant.