Signet Solar to Build $840M Plant in New Mexico

Signet Solar Inc., a manufacturer of thin film silicon photovoltaic modules based in Menlo Park, Calif., plans to build an $840 million manufacturing facility in Belen, N.M., about 30 minutes south of Albuquerque. The project will go up in two phases. Expected to open in 2010, the $200 million first phase will bring about 200 high-wage jobs to the state. Phase II will cost about $640 million and add another 400 permanent jobs. The plant will span 600,000 square feet. “We are already in discussion with suppliers and support businesses that will be drawn to the area by this project,” Fred Mondragón (pictured), New Mexico’s Cabinet Secretary for Economic Development, told CPN. The facility will produce modules for commercial rooftop and ground mounted solar power systems. The first phase will have the capacity to produce panels capable of generating 65 megawatts of power per year. That’s enough power to provide electricity to about 20,000 houses. Phase II will boost capacity to 300 megawatts per year. The 75-acre installation will be part of a master planned industrial and residential community called Rancho Cielo, which is being developed by San Francisco-based Coast Range Investments. Rancho Cielo plans to use Signet panels on a 700-acre solar farm designed to meet the majority of the community’s power requirements. “We see this as the beginning of an alternative energy cluster for our state,” Mondragón said. “The fact that the solar farm will support a residential complex makes this a very unique project for us.” While the Rancho Cielo plant will be the first Signet plant in North America, the company has been producing thin-film silicon photovoltaic modules in its plant in Dresden, Germany since October 2008.