Nowhere in the world does the sun seem to shine stronger than in Tucson, Arizona. For Germany’s Solon, one of the biggest solar module manufacturers and leading suppliers of photovoltaic systems for large-scale solar power plants in Europe, this has created a huge opportunity. With its motto ‘pioneers of power’, Solon is set to expand its global footprint and make a significant impact on the advancement of solar energy. Consequently, in October 2007 the firm established Solon Corp, a wholly owned subsidiary in Tucson, to serve the North American market.

“The decision to locate in Tucson was initially driven by the fact Solon had bought a supply company called Global Solar Energy

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Inc in 2006,” reveals Olaf Koester, president and CEO of Solon Corp. That purchase involved a 19% stake in Global Solar Energy of Tucson and came as Solon was looking to expand its business overseas. Around that time, the company made the decision to open its own state-of-the-art production facility for solar modules in Tucson, recalls Mr Koester.

Power play

The company first began producing solar panels for its own project to supply electricity to Pima County in Arizona and for export back to Europe. Then, in October 2008, it opened the first stage of a 9750 square metres plant. The facility has an annual capacity of more than 100 watt-peak and produces UL-certified solar modules for north America.

The following year, Solon introduced a first-of-its-kind Velocity megawatt modular solar system to allow utilities to integrate reliable solar power into clean energy programmes in a faster, more cost-efficient way. The system provides preconfigured, 1 megawatt (MW) modular

solar fields that can scale to capacity in just four months. The system was engineered with utilities such as Tucson Electric Power Company in mind, to help improve peak-load demand and meet renewable energy goals.

Emerging polices such as renewable portfolio standards and renewable energy credits are driving utility companies to pursue solar projects for clean-energy generation. “As we developed the Solon Velocity MW System, we thought a lot about the ways in which design and engineering can benefit utility-scale solar installation,” says Mr Koester.

Utilities face huge risks when rolling out solar energy systems, getting them to run in a timely manner and dealing with underperformance and the potential for escalated associated costs. But Mr Koester emphasises that Solon’s timing could not be better and that its system delivers fast, reliable solar energy. He says: “Recent legislation on tax breaks for the construction of solar power systems creates a secure framework for the further expansion of renewable energies in the US and will accelerate its growth.” Solon intends to benefit from this trend. “Our new facility will put us in an excellent position to do so,” he adds.

Location, location, location

Tucson has many advantages to enable Solon to reach its goal. Arizona is widely known for having very high levels of sunlight. Plus, the US solar market, which has created about 220 MW in 2007, is expected to grow to more than 1 terawatt (1000 MW) by 2012. The majority of that growth is expected to be in the country’s south west, due largely to the good climate.

Tucson also offers advantages in terms of logistics. “There are direct routes to markets in California, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado – states that have strong solar programmes,” says Mr Koester. “Tucson also offers a world-class university and a vision for the role solar power plants can play in the state.”

COMPANY PROFILE

SOLON

Headquarters

Berlin, GermanyDate established

1997Locations

Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, USEmployees worldwide

900Consolidated revenue (2008)

€815.1m

Consolidated net profit (2008)

€30.9m