Monday, April 28, 2008

Toledo reaching for the sun

By Sahely Mukerji, managing editor, Glass Magazine/AutoGlass

I recently got an e-mail from Todd Lang of Development Counsellors International who offered an interesting bit of info about Toledo, the U.S. city with the 10th fastest population loss since 2000. Home of Pilkington NA, Toledo, is using an old industry—glass—to power a new industry—solar cells.
Lang backed up his statement with the following:
First Solar, a leading solar cell manufacturer in the U.S., has added 365 employees at the Toledo facility in four years. The company’s revenue for the fiscal year ended Dec. 29, 2007, was $504.0 million, up from $135 million in fiscal year 2006. The technology developed in Toledo allows First Solar to sell panels 35 percent lower than the competition, yet maintain a 45 percent profit margin.
Pilkington supplies to First Solar. Two years ago its sales in glass used for solar cells barely registered on the spreadsheet. It is expected to reach 10 percent of overall revenues in the next five years.
The University of Toledo recently devoted more than $20 million to researching solar power and build additional lab space to spur future spin-offs. This is in addition to $3.6 million spent last year to establish The Center for Photovoltaic Energy and Hydrogen.
Xunlight Corp., formerly MWOE Solar Inc., a technology spin-off from UT, received its initial funding of $7 million to produce lightweight and flexible solar cells. The financing was led by Emerald Technology Ventures, a globally active venture capital firm specializing in energy, materials and water technologies along with NGP Energy Technology Partners, an energy technology private equity fund. Xunlight will begin production next year increasing their staff from 18 to 40.
DCI, a privately funded economic development group, is working to establish venture capital funds to assist in building this solar power cluster in NW Ohio. Please write me if you have more to add regarding Toledo’s rejuvenation efforts.

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