Schuco International and E.ON will build a $135 million factory to produce the world’s largest thin-film panels, the companies said Thursday.
The two Germany companies, which have formed a joint venture called Malibu, said they expect the manufacturing facility, to be built in Magdeburg, Germany, to start producing panels in the fall.
The announcement was part of a succession of thin-film production announcements Thursday.
China Stream Fund Solar Energy Co. has started up a 5-megawatt thin-film solar-panel manufacturing line in Changzhou, China, according to the trade magazine Solar Industry.
The company plans to add 30 more 5-megawatt lines with a total capacity of 150 megawatts by the end of the year, the publication reported.
Bulletin-board-traded XsunX also said Thursday that it will build its first thin-film panel plant in a 90,000 square-foot building in Wood Village, a town east of Portland, Ore.
While constructing a building from scratch would have made it easier to design floor space that met the company’s needs, the Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based firm decided it would save money by using an existing building, according to a written statement by XsunX CEO Tom Djokovich.
XsunX expects its plant to have a capacity of 25 megawatts.
As traditional solar makers feel the continued pinch of a silicon shortage, thin-film companies are pushing their technology, which uses little or no silicon, into the marketplace.
Those efforts are paying off. In November, Greentech Media reported that thin-film solar panels grew from 4 percent of the solar market a few years ago to about 7 percent (see Thin Films Lead U.S. Solar Production).
But the bulk of that growth has come from one company, First Solar. Other companies, including those mentioned above and Nanosolar, which began production in December and announced Wednesday it had raised $50 million, are hoping to take some of its market share.
At least one industry watcher wonders if the market will be big enough to absorb the increase in production.
"I haven’t seen a demand for thin-film installations in any significant magnitude that would warrant these kinds of manufacturing investments," said Joel Makower, co-founder of cleantech research firm Clean Edge.
"It’s certainly a vote of confidence," he said. "I just hope it’s not a vote of overconfidence."