The Toledo and Northwest Ohio area's involvement in solar energy production took another major step forward with the announcement of plans to develop North America's most advanced polycrystalline silicon (c-Si) production facility in Toledo.
Officials of California-based Sphere Renewable Energy Corp. (SREC) said the company will develop a wholly-owned subsidiary, Buckeye Silicon (BeSi), in Toledo. The initial production module will be located at The University of Toledo's renowned Center for Renewable Energy.
"Toledo is an outstanding community, one with the human resources that readily can be applied to our manufacturing business," said Harrison Choi, BeSi's President and CEO.
Product produced by BeSi will be sold predominantly to PV producers in North America and Europe. SREC recently has entered into a joint venture with strategic, East Asian investors to begin using SREC's proprietary process to mass produce c-Si for the PV market.
Solar cell manufacturers in the Toledo market currently use a process that does not require c-Si to produce PV solar cells. With the addition of BeSi's manufacturing base, the Toledo area will be capable of boosting its photovoltaic manufacturing portfolio, spanning the entire PV value chain.
A ceremony in conjunction with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was held at UT's Center for Renewable Energy. Signatories included BeSi, UT, the City of Toledo and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.
With an eye toward the future of both his company and the area's role in solar energy, President Choi said: "Over the next several years, we look forward to working with each of the MOU parties to create many net-new skilled jobs for Toledoans. Our plan is to grow to become a dominate, global polysilicon supplier as well as to further improve the NW Ohio platform so other solar-focused companies will base their businesses here." Michael J. Stolarczyk, President and CEO of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, endorsed BeSi's move to Toledo. "The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority strongly supports the further development of the solar industry in Northwest Ohio, and we are committed to working with BeSi on the development of its financing," Stolarczyk said.
Sphere Renewable Energy Corp's approach involves a light industrial, modular process which requires much less space and energy than a traditional polycrystalline silicon production facility. Also, SREC's development is more efficient. The approach up until now has involved massive chemical infrastructure facilitation, similar to an oil refinery, with many of the related concerns that refineries experience.