First Solar Is Using Robots to Better Tap the Sun

Chris Martin for Bloomberg Business Week:  A year ago, First Solar Inc.’s future looked uncertain. Deeply underpriced by a string of Chinese competitors, the Tempe, Ariz., maker of solar panels laid off hundreds of workers, sold equipment, and shut down its factory on the outskirts of Toledo, its only one in the U.S., as it prepared to gut and remodel the place. That last move, however, has paid off.

The Ohio plant has been reborn as an almost fully automated operation, daily churning out hundreds of solar panels for a fraction of what it costs rivals to make them. The secret: supersize panels made with cadmium telluride, an energy-absorbing metal compound that First Solar engineers figured out how to spray on glass sheets in a thin film. First Solar invested more than $1 billion in researching and developing the cad-tel spray over the course of two decades. Its success upended the business of solar panel production even before the Trump administration announced tariffs on overseas solar hardware on Jan. 22.

Early in the plant renovation process, “when I first saw that empty factory floor, my heart sank,” Chief Executive Officer Mark Widmar recalls. He was unsure the automation would pay off. “I thought, What have we done? But we’re now in a better competitive position than ever.”  Full Article:

Comments (0)

This post does not have any comments. Be the first to leave a comment below.


Post A Comment

You must be logged in before you can post a comment. Login now.

Featured Product

EXAIR’s New Gen4 Static Eliminators

EXAIR's New Gen4 Static Eliminators

Neutralize and clean at distances up to 20 feet with EXAIR's Gen4 Static Eliminators. These shockless ionizers are electrically powered and produce a bulk of positive and negative ions. The charged surface attracts the appropriate number of positive or negative ions from the ionizer to become neutral. Combining our engineered airflow products with ionizers gives us the ability to eliminate a static charge quickly and from great distances. Laminar flow airstreams make it possible to blow away any contaminants and eliminate the charge that attracts them. Compressed air consumption and noise are minimized while providing force that can be adjusted from a "blast" to a "breeze". See Static Eliminators in action at https://exair.co/watchstaticelim?pub=184 Special promotion is available now. www.exair.com/184/sepromo.htm