Tuesday, 26 April 2011

By Blake Rasmussen
Community Impact News

RRE Austin Solar is in serious talks with Portuguese solar panel manufacturer Magpower to bring a 100,000-square-foot, 50-megawatt plant to Pflugerville, CEO Daven Mehta said during an April 26 City Council work session.

The plant, Mehta said, would bring between 80 and 100 jobs to the city and could serve as one of the first major tenants for a proposed business park located on the southwest corner of Pecan Street and Toll 130.

Mehta said the companies are in the due diligence phase of negotiations, but that he has received a "strong" signal from Magpower.

RRE Austin Solar’s interest in Magpower is due in part to their ability to manufacture more efficient solar panels, Mehta said. RRE’s panels have a 20 percent efficiency rating, while Magpower is making panels with 35 percent to 45 percent efficiency ratings, Mehta said.

Higher efficiencies are important to solar power because better efficiencies in solar panels reduce the cost of producing energy. Lower efficiencies hinder the financial viability of solar power.

RRE Austin Solar broke ground in December on what will be a 60-megawatt solar farm east of Pflugerville and will have about 480,000 panels. A 50-megawatt manufacturing plant would produce enough panels in a year to power Pflugerville three times over, said Floyd Akers, city attorney and interim director of the Pflugerville Community Development Corp.

Mehta said Magpower is already producing panels in Lisbon, Portugal, in an 800,000-square-foot plant. A Pflugerville plant, he said, would likely be closer to 100,000 square feet.

The proposed business park is under discussion among PCDC officials as a way to launch a business incubator aimed at helping renewable energy startups get off the ground. The incubator would house startups and allow them to test products on the solar farm.

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