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Solar Power Industries in Westmoreland County is leading an explosion of solar power manufacturing in the region.

Last July, the maker of silicon ingots, wafers, cells and modules that convert sunlight to energy announced a major expansion and the hiring of another 375 employees over the next three years. SPI has leased 265,000 square feet in Sony Technology Center in East Huntingdon where a manufacturing line will be installed.

The $40.1 million center will be assisted by $7.5 million from the state, another 10-year, state low-interest loan of $6.5 million and a Solar Power grant of $937,500.

The expansion will double the company's current workforce of 210 to about 585 employees, says John Bucher, COO. The company is based in Rostraver where it operates another 120,000 square-foot plant.

Formed in 2003, SPI is one of the five companies in the U.S. making solar cells and the only solar cell manufacturer in the state. The renewable energy company is counting on funds from the billion-dollar federal economic stimulus package and state solar incentives to grow.

Most of the company's business to date is in exports to China and Europe. SPI is ramping up for U.S. business, which currently lags behind the rest of the world and is expected to double by 2013, Bucher says.

SPI is also expects its solar voltaic cell business for landscape lighting to grow as well.

"Solar is a very practical way in the utility grid to add power during peak times," says Bucher, who applauds the state's support of solar industry growth in the region. "Pennsylvania is going to be a fast-growing solar state."

Writer: Debra Diamond Smit
Source: John Bucher, Solar Power Industries

Solar Power Industries
13 Airport Road, Belle Vernon
Pittsburgh, PA 15102
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