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High Technology Solar Manufacturing Plant Will Create 350 Jobs in Albuquerque

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A German solar technology company announced plans to build a massive manufacturing plant at Mesa del Sol in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Schott Solar, a division of the huge German company, Schott AG, plans to break ground next month on a $100 Million, 200,000 square-foot facility. The plant is expected to open in 2009. Initially, the plant will create 350 jobs. By 2012, Schott will have invested $500 Million, increased the plant to 800,000 square feet, employ 1,500 people and become the state’s third-largest private employer.

The Albuquerque plant will be Schott’s flagship facility in the United States. It will manufacture 64 Megawatt photovoltaic modules and the receivers that generate power for concentrated solar thermal power plants — facilities which operate much like conventional steam power plants but use solar energy instead of burning fossil fuels.

Concentrated solar power plants use parabolic mirrors to concentrate solar radiation onto solar receivers thereby increasing the temperature of the heat transfer fluid flowing through the receivers to 700 degrees F. This heated fluid is then used to turn water into steam which drives a turbine and generates electricity.

Schott is a leading manufacturer of solar thermal receivers used in parabolic trough solar thermal power plants. One solar receiver production facility is already online in Mitterteich, Germany and another facility in Sevilla, Spain is scheduled to go online next month. When the Albuquerque facility goes online next year, Schott’s worldwide receiver production capacity will exceed 600 Megawatts per year.

“In one year’s time, we will have transformed the desert in Mesa del Sol to one of the largest solar manufacturing sites in the country,” said Udo Ungeheuer, chairman of Schott’s board of management.

“The recent opening of the 64 Megawatt Nevada Solar One solar thermal power plant demonstrates that large-scale solar thermal power is a renewable energy technology whose time has come.” said Mark Finocchario, President and CEO of Schott Solar. “We expect that the reliability and cost-effectiveness of solar thermal parabolic trough power plants, along with the Southwestern United States’ vast solar resources, will help make solar thermal power one of the United States’ leading sources of renewable energy by 2025.”

Schott, a privately held company, chose Albuquerque over cities in three other undisclosed states and locations in Mexico and Canada. New Mexico was chosen after a courtship that began six months ago with a tour of Mesa del Sol which is located south of Albuquerque Sunport. The deal was sealed with a handshake in a hotel in New Hampshire while Richardson was there campaigning for President. “These are the kinds of high-wage jobs we want here in New Mexico,” said Governor Bill Richardson.

Mark Finocchario, president and CEO of Schott Solar, said the company was attracted to the abundance of sunlight in New Mexico as well as the state’s commitment to renewable energy. Governor Richardson has set a goal that, by 2020, 20 percent of the energy consumed in the state will be renewable, with 4 percent of that coming from solar power.

Governor Richardson also said he will ask the New Mexico Legislature, which just opened its 2008 session this week, to allocate $8 Million toward the construction of Schott’s new plant. Schott will also be eligible for other financial incentives, such as tax credits equal to 10 percent of the wages and benefits for each new high-wage job that is created. In return, New Mexico expects to receive an economic benefit from the plant of more than $1 Billion over 20 years.

Schott’s arrival is another success for developer Forest City Covington, which has made the solar energy industry a target as it builds Mesa del Sol, a 13,000-acre project south of the Albuquerque Sunport that is expected to one day be home to 37,500 homes. “This reinforces our mission to make Mesa del Sol a showcase for renewable development,” said Mike Daly, CEO of Forest City Covington.

Schott was founded 120 years ago. It has over 17,000 employees in 41 countries and produces $3 billion in annual revenue. Its main markets are in household appliances, optics, electronics, pharmaceutical packaging and solar energy.

Advent Solar, a startup solar technology firm, is already operating a manufacturing plant at Mesa del Sol.

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