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Welcome Back, Pittsburgh: FLABEG Brings 200 Green Solar Jobs to Steel City

FLABEG of Germany will open a new high-tech solar mirror factory near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh has been laying the groundwork for a high tech green jobs renaissance ever since its mighty steel mills shut their doors 30 years ago.  Now the payoff is coming.  FLABEG, the global specialty glass manufacturer, has just opened a solar mirror factory by Pittsburgh International Airport that will bring an estimated 200 jobs to the region, and perhaps as many as 300.

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The new $30 million facility will initially focus on its core production line of parabolic curved solar mirrors.  Months before the plant opened it already received 700,000 orders, and FLABEG expects to reach a capacity of 1 million mirrors annually.

Untempered vs. Tempered Solar Mirrors

With an eye on possible future federal or state regulations governing standards for safety glass used in solar arrays, FLABEG has designed the new facility to produce high strength tempered solar mirrors if necessary, in addition to its core production line of untempered glass mirrors.  That’s erring on the side of caution, and it may not prove necessary after all.  FLABEG claims that its sag-bending process for untempered glass results in a more precise product that is able to withstand field conditions with a minimal breakage rate.  In field tests at the Nevada Solar One array, FLABEG’s untempered solar mirrors had a negligible breakage rate of only .027%.  There are 183,400 mirrors in the array and only 50 needed to be replaced over the course of three years.

Green Jobs and the Rust Belt

FLABEG based its decision to open a Pittsburgh solar mirror factory in based on several factors that could continue to feed more green jobs into the rust belt.  Like many rust belt cities Pittsburgh hosts world class universities, a skilled industrial workforce, and a lively urban cultural scene.  With European-based manufacturers like FLABEG squeezed for space, the U.S. solar market makes it a logical place to expand operations.  The deciding factor for FLABEG was Pittsburgh’s aggressive, long term policy commitment to shaking off an unsustainable industrial base that was largely based on energy from coal, and moving toward an economy based on a sustainable energy future – all backed up by an equally aggressive host state, Pennsylvania, which put up a $9 million sustainable energy grant for the new factory.

Image: brunkfordbraun on flickr.com.

 
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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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