Friday, November 11, 2005


Friday, November 11, 2005 NEW BUSINESS NEWS! Advent Plant to Employ 1,000 By Andrew Webb Journal Staff Writer Albuquerque-based Advent Solar will be the first corporate tenant at the massive Mesa del Sol development, where the photovoltaic-cell maker will build a manufacturing plant expected to employ 1,000 by 2010. The deal marks a milestone for the planned 12,000-acre, mixed-use community, which has been on the drawing board for two decades. Advent Solar also announced Thursday it has raised $30 million in venture capital, the largest such funding round in recent history. "This is a huge victory in terms of starting a solar industry in the state," New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Rick Homans said during a news conference in Gov. Bill Richardson's office in Santa Fe. Homans joined Richardson, Mayor Martin Ch├ívez and other state, city and company officials to announce the deal. Advent, which was founded here in 2000, considered several locations for its 70,000-square-foot plant and research facility, including New York, Pennsylvania and Texas. A combination of city and state incentives, coupled with proximity to other solar resources, drove its decision to locate here, said Advent co-founder and CEO Rusty Schmit. "This is the best place for clean energy technology in the world," he said of New Mexico. South of the Albuquerque International Sunport, Mesa del Sol will be a mix of residential, industrial and retail space. Its developer, Ohio-based Forest City Covington, plans to begin early next year building its first 90,000-square-foot industrial and office building. Advent will be the building's first tenant, and expects to begin solar-cell production in the new facility in late 2006 or early 2007. Forest City Covington chief operating officer Michael Daly said the new building will be east of Journal Pavilion, at the north end of the development, along the new road currently under construction from I-25. Both facilities will be accessible from the new University Boulevard extension. State and city funds are picking up the tab for the road, in return for Forest City building the $4.5 million facility, which it will lease to Advent. "Mesa del Sol has been nothing but a dream for more than 20 years," said state Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons. He called Advent's planned plant a "launching pad" for future development there. At full capacity, Schmit said the plant would produce about 10 million solar cells per year, putting it on par with established photovoltaic manufacturers like Sharp and GE. Though they are still in the testing phase, Advent's solar cells and modules have the potential to be much less expensive than conventional solar technology, Schmit said. The company's photovoltaic cells are based on technology developed at Sandia National Laboratories. Unlike conventional solar cells, Advent's cells locate all electrical contacts on the back of the cell. Tiny holes drilled through the cells with lasers allow sunlight to reach the contacts. The process is not only cheaper— because it allows for more traditional electronics manufacturing techniques like those used for circuit boards— but it is more efficient. Though Europe currently produces and consumes more solar cells, Richardson said he hoped Advent would help shepherd some of that industry here. "New Mexico is going to become the fastest-growing renewable energy state," Richardson said at the news conference. The $30 million investment, which follows an $8 million investment made in late 2004, comes from numerous sources: Battery Ventures, FireLake Capital, EnerTech Capital Partners, @Ventures, the state of New Mexico, and a group of private individual investors from New Mexico and other states. The state's total investment in Advent is about $3.5 million. The investment is one of the largest venture capital deals in the state's history, though another firm, Albuquerque-based Eclipse Aviation, has raised hundreds of millions, some of which is from venture capitalists. Advent Solar plans to employ 1,000 in the next five years, as it hires administrative and sales staff, engineers and manufacturing technicians for the plant. The company, which now employs about 36 at its office and prototype production line in UNM's Science and Technology Park, plans to hire about 126 in its first year of operation at the new plant. Annual salaries will range from $23,000 to $94,000, with benefits, and state officials estimate the company will have a $35 million annual payroll within five years. During its first five years, state and local tax revenues from the firm are expected to exceed $60 million, the state said.
Post a Comment

Blog Archive