Area on verge of more capacity

First Solar is in the midst of a $100 million expansion that will add a fourth production line and more office space.
First Solar is in the midst of a $100 million expansion that will add a fourth production line and more office space.

More than two million thin-film solar panels are manufactured each year in metro Toledo, and that number will grow as industry giant First Solar Inc. completes a major expansion in Perrysburg Township and other firms launch production.

First Solar s $100 million expansion, to be completed in mid-2010, is about 65 percent complete, construction officials said. Annual production at the factory, at 28101 Cedar Park Blvd., will increase to 2.8 million panels from 2 million. Its panels produce 108 megawatts of power now; with the added capacity the figure will be 198 megawatts.

In addition to a fourth production line, the project includes a research center and added office space. It is expected to add 135 jobs to the 700-person work force.

Xunlight Corp., at 3145 Nebraska Ave. in Toledo, expects to move from pilot production to full-scale production in late 2009 or early 2010.

A technology spin-off from the University of Toledo, the firm has attracted more than $40 million in investments from private equity groups worldwide and an additional $10 million from the U.S. departments of Energy and Commerce and the Ohio Department of Development.

Founder Xunming Deng hopes to quickly expand beyond the planned production line capable of manufacturing enough panels to make 25 megawatts of power annually. The firm is seeking a U.S. Energy Department loan guarantee, provided for under President Obama s stimulus program, to increase production to 100 megawatts within two years.

Willard & Kelsey Solar Group LLC announced that it would hire 400 people by the end of the year to begin producing solar panels at a former television components plant off State Rt. 25 in Perrysburg. The firm was founded last year by Toledo entrepreneurs with links to the solar industry.

Meanwhile, Willard & Kelsey is negotiating with officials here, in Orlando, Fla., and elsewhere over the location of its headquarters and a large factory complex. It has applied for $100 million in federal stimulus funds to finance a solar park that would have more than 3,500 employees.

Calyxo USA Inc., a subsidiary of German solar panel-giant Q-Cells AG, operates a research and development center at 12900 Eckel Junction Rd. in Perrysburg. It is focused on a specialized type of thin-film technology that uses the chemical compound cadmium telluride to help transform sunlight to electricity.

Q-Cells, which is among the world s largest solar panel manufacturers, is experimenting with a number of thin-film technologies to determine which is the most efficient and cost-effective.