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New Solar Panel Plant Opens In Hattiesburg

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 17 Sep 2011 01:47pm | comments
new panels

A new solar panel factory is cranking up operations at their factory in Hattiesburg. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that the company, Stion, believes that the new technology in their solar panels will provide cheaper, more efficient electricity.

Stion employee Karl Kercher explains the production process at the new plant that is being set-up inside the old Sunbeam factory in an industrial park south of Hattiesburg.

The panels begin life as normal sheets of glass at one end and come out their other end of a 100 yard long horseshoe shaped processing line as new solar panels.

Stion's Bob Beisner says their panels will cost less and be more efficient their their competition.

"We have found ways to be able to capture more of the photons. To have those photons knock off more electrons, so that that way we can, in fact, get more power out of the same space as other module manufactures, that is what is going to make us successful," Beisner said.

Beisner says Stion will eventually install three more productions lines...employing up to 1-thousand Mississippians.

James Whittemore is finishing up his PHD in Polymer science at the University of Southern Mississippi and has already found a job with Stion.

Whittemore says their design and production process makes these panels very different from current solar panels.

"A lot of solar panels today are made by one single silicone crystal. And that requires a lot of high heat, high temperature, and it requires a lot of pure materials. Our processing technic is more simple and less expensive," Whittemore said.

It will cost about 5 dollars per watt to buy and have the panels installed, but Stion's Frank Yang says that translates into power that costs about as much power from the wall.

"Today, the best in class technologies are probably in the 17-18 cent range per kilowatt hour. Some of the new technology, such as what we are working on, have the opportunity to bring that down by 20-30%. And in a lot of parts of the country that is already competitive with the grid," Yang said.

Company officials say that 80-percent of the jobs at the factory will be filled by Mississippians with a high school diploma.

Panels are expected to begin rolling off line by the end of the year with the plant up to full production in six years.



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