The Naval Yard is set to welcome HelioSphera, the latest addition to the city’s sustainable scene. The two-year-old, privately-held company is based in Athens, Greece and manufactures solar panels. They use a process licensed from Oerlikon Solar, a Swiss company, to produce Micromorph thin-film photovoltaic panels, which are rapidly gaining share in the solar-cell market because of their low cost.
Micromorph modules perform in low light, partial shading and higher temperatures, resulting in above-average energy yields. Thin-film solar cells do not produce as much electricity as traditional crystalline silicon solar panels, but they are much cheaper to manufacture.
HelioSphera recently opened its first manufacturing facility in Tripoli, Greece. Their plant in the Philadelphia Naval Yard should be operational by late 2011. Panos Ninios, president of HelioSphera US, said the company chose the Naval Yard site after considering eight states and visiting 35 locations. He said that the quality of Philadelphia’s workforce, the proximity to transportation and the government incentives sealed the deal for the city.
The $500 million plant will employ 400 people when it begins operations. It will be able to produce 1.2 million thin-film solar modules per year. —Marilyn S. D’angelo