SunEdison, one of the companies that sparked the third-party ownership revolution with businesses—allowing them to install solar with little to no up-front costs—announced on April 23 that it partnered with Foxconn Technology to produce photovoltaics (PV) in Juarez, Mexico. Under the partnership, SunEdison’s sister subsidiary, MEMC Singapore (both are subsidiaries of MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc.) is contracting with Foxconn subsidiary Fox Energy to manufacture up to 350 megawatts of SunEdison’s Silvantis PV modules.
The partnership brings two industry leaders in their respective businesses together. SunEdison has connected roughly a gigawatt of solar, and has a project pipeline of 2.6 gigawatts of solar around the world. Taiwan-based Foxconn has risen to fame and some infamy for producing Apple’s iPhone and iPad. While the world apparently loves the iPhone and other consumer goods that come from the company’s assembly facilities, Foxconn has come under criticism for its labor practices, which led Apple to hire the Fair Labor Association to investigate the company’s labor practices. Now the electronics assembly leader is taking on the PV world.
The relationship with Foxconn will help SunEdison build out its project pipeline while keeping the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) from its modules low. "We're thrilled to partner with Fox Energy to produce our Silvantis family of solar modules," said Gokul Krishnan, general manager of SunEdison's solar module business unit. "Fox Energy's global footprint allows SunEdison to manufacture modules near our high growth end-markets which helps us keep costs down while meeting local content requirements." Manufacturing the modules in Mexico will help keep the costs of the final product low, while avoiding the tariffs imposed by the US government on modules produced in China, for example.
Fox Energy will use automation to help keep the costs of manufacturing the modules low. "Our automated PV module manufacturing process and stringent quality controls will help SunEdison meet the high standards their customers have come to expect," said Dr. Jeffrey Lu, President of Fox Energy Inc.
This project is being facilitated by a partnership with the Borderplex Alliance, which places it in Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas and Las Cruces, NM. "This is proof positive that our bi-national region combines the best of what the US and Mexico have to offer: World class manufacturing and technological innovation," said Rolando Pablos, Borderplex Alliance CEO.
In making the announcement, SunEdison becomes the latest PV manufacturer to look south of the border to manufacture solar for Americas at lower costs than it can be produced elsewhere. Other companies that have opened PV manufacturing in Mexico include SunPower and Kyocera. Now defunct, UniSolar had manufacturing in Mexico as well.
The new manufacturing facility also shows that the PV market is starting to recover from the oversupply slump it has experienced over the last two years. The continual oversupply has forced numerous PV manufacturers out of business over the past two years and more are still likely to fail. But others, like SunEdison, are predicted to expand in the next few years as the market stabilizes.