The global solar panel industry is struggling—major manufacturers have posted continued losses this quarter, mainly due to a saturated market that’s left them unable to charge enough for their panels. But one startup, Fremont, California-based Silevo, is bucking the trend of plant closures and bankruptcies by planning to build a new factory next year.
Silevo says the 200-megawatt factory will let it make solar panels at costs similar to those made by solar-panel manufacturers in China, even though those manufacturers have far larger, 1,000-megawatt factories and the economies of scale that go with that.
Silevo has one key advantage—its solar panels produce significantly more power than conventional solar panels do. They generate roughly 30 percent more power than conventional ones, and hold up better at high temperatures, which could further increase their electricity production. The combination of low-cost manufacturing and high efficiency is why the company now has an order backlog of 270 megawatts, says Chris Beitel, Silevo’s vice president of business development. The company currently produces solar panels at a small 32-megawatt factory in China, and says it hopes to close financing for the new plant early next year.