This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

May 22, 2002

Spire Opens New Solar Plant; ASE Americas Plans Addition

The U.S. solar power industry continued to advance in May with the opening of a new facility in Chicago and the planned addition to a manufacturing plant in Billerica, Massachusetts.

Spire Corporation announced in early May the opening of its Spire Solar Chicago manufacturing plant, located in the new Chicago Center for Green Technology (CCGT). The 14,000-square-foot facility incorporates photovoltaic module manufacturing along with office space and will eventually employ about 55 people. Spire Solar Chicago has already installed about 500 kilowatts of solar power within the city, including a 38-kilowatt installation on Chicago's 911 Emergency Communications Center early this year. The company has also installed 35 kilowatts of solar power on the CCGT, and has signed a multi-year extension of its partnership with the City of Chicago. See the Spire press release.

In Billerica, ASE Americas announced plans to add a new 10-megawatt solar cell manufacturing line to its existing 20-megawatt facility. Solar cell manufacturers measure their production capacity in terms of the peak power capacity of all the cells produced in one year, so the expanded facility will produce 30 megawatts of solar cells each year. The new manufacturing line will be fully automated and will create 30 new jobs at the facility. The first equipment should arrive by December. See the ASE Americas press release.

Spire and ASE Americas may soon face new competition from overseas: Pacific Solar, an Australian company, released details of its new solar power technology on Monday. The company has developed a method of depositing thin films of crystalline silicon on glass that it claims could achieve costs as low as $1.95 per watt. The company also claims the process is ready for commercialization. See the Pacific Solar press release (PDF 96 KB). Download Acrobat Reader.

The Pacific Solar announcement was made at the Photovoltaic Specialists Conference of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., held May 20th to 24th in New Orleans. Abstracts of the papers presented at the technical conference are now posted on the conference Web site.