Arizona Sun, US Solar Attract France’s Saint-Gobain

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Saint-Gobain Solar announced that construction of its solar thermal mirror plant in Goodyear, Arizona has begun. The plant is slated to start production in this year’s fourth quarter, creating 50 permanent jobs and manufacturing millions of square feet of solar mirrors used in solar thermal and concentrating solar power (CSP) installations, including solar concentration towers and liner Fresnel lenses.

The plant’s projected production capacity corresponds to an annual thermal power output of 300-megawatts (MW), enough to supply an American town of 150,000 with clean, renewable electrical power. The clean energy produced using the plant’s mirrors could avoid as much as 320,000 tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of replanting some 62,000 acres of forest, according to the company, a subsidiary of France’s Saint-Gobain.

Originally established in Paris in 1665 in order to supply France with luxury mirrors and glass products, Saint-Gobain today is a multi-billion multinational corporation focused on developing and manufacturing high-performance and specialty glass and materials for a range of industries, including the solar thermal industry.

The solar mirror plant is Saint-Gobain Solar’s first such manufacturing facility in the US. It has a plant manufacturing parabolic mirrors for CSP installations in Portugal and another in Germany where flat mirrors for solar power installations are manufactured.

“Our strategic decision to expand manufacturing into the United States confirms the importance of this market in our business portfolio,” said Fabrice Didier, the company’s managing director. “The new facility will be working with the best technology available.”

The US solar photovoltaic (PV) industry grew 69% year-over-year in Q2 2011, according to a Solar Energy Industry Association-GTM Research market study. There are currently 600MW of CSP plants under construction in the US, and another 7-gigawatts (GW) in various stages of development.

Manufacturing solar thermal mirrors and high-performance glass materials locally in the US will speed up the company’s plans to expand in North America’s solar power market, as well as reduce its CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions and other logistical and transportation costs.

“Local production of solar mirrors means we are now able to offer the same quality solar products in the United States as we do in Europe,” Garnier added. “Perhaps just as important, local production also means a reduction in our carbon footprint regarding the transportation of these products over long distances.

Arizona’s “proactive” renewable energy policy played a role in Saint-Gobain Solar’s decision to build the facility in Goodyear. “We are grateful to the state of Arizona, which has adopted a proactive policy to encourage companies from the solar sector to establish manufacturing plants,” Garnier said.

“The Arizona Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program helped to encourage us to select the state for our new plant. Following a tough selection process, we chose to set up our plant in the Phoenix area, in Goodyear, where we are pleased to have been very positively received.”

“Saint-Gobain Solar is a welcome addition to Greater Phoenix’s growing solar supply chain and further enhances our reputation as the nation’s hotspot for solar and renewable energy,” added Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. “Investments from major international corporations like Saint-Gobain exemplify how the Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program is creating quality jobs and building a sustainable economic platform for the region’s future.”

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