SunPower increases output with Malaysian fabrication plant

On Dec. 15, SunPower Corp. announced its production capacity of photovoltaic cells would more than triple—to about 1,975 megawatts (MWs) annually by 2013. That’s thanks in part to starting construction on a new 1,400 MW fabrication facility in Melaka, Malaysia.

For 2010, SunPower will produce approximately 580 MWs of solar cells. Of that, 108 MWs are being produced at its first fabrication plant, 466 MWs at its second and 5MWs at the new facility, said Natalie Wymer, SunPower spokesperson.

The company now is producing its second generation PV cells at all of the plants. The cells are at least 22 percent efficient.

“Starting in 2011, we will be begin manufacturing our Generation 3 technology with a minimum efficiency of 23 percent,” she said. “We also announced in June of 2010 the production of the industry’s highest cell conversion efficiency of 24.2 percent.”

The company’s manufacturing plants are standardized.

“Given the standardization of our technology and production lines, we can easily incorporate efficiency improvements across our manufacturing lines,” Wymer said. The higher efficiency cells, the new fabrication plant, and standardized production should allow the company to reach the 2013 goal.

The Malaysian fabrication plant is being developed in collaboration with AU Optronics Corp. When complete, the facility will be roughly the size of seven football fields, according to SunPower. It will have 28 photovoltaic cell production lines when fully online. Already the facility has produced approximately 5 MWs of SunPower’s second generation PV cells.

The facility is being built to LEED standards and includes solar power. The company stated that it will feature “solar covered parking that will provide up to 2.6 megawatts of annual power generation, [and] rooftop solar on all site facilities that will total more than 10 megawatts of annual power generation”

The U.S.-based company chose Malaysia for three main reasons. Strong support from the Malaysian government, the country’s highly educated workforce, and the opportunity to expand as needed, Wymer said.

Wymer would not disclose future plans for additional facilities.

“We have not commented on additional cell production facilities after Fab 3,” she said. The company does have another facility coming online at the end of 2010, however.

“Our [75 MW capacity] module manufacturing facility in Milpitas, [Calif.], will be in operation by the end of this year and will initially employ 100 new jobs.”

Image courtesy of SunPower.