Colorado Springs lands solar cell manufacturing plant with 380 jobs

Meyer Burger, a Swiss maker of solar cells and modules, will locate a new manufacturing plant in Colorado Springs as it boosts its U.S. presence, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade announced Monday.

The new plant is expected to bring up to 380 paying an average annual wage of $77,842, which is nearly 130% of the average annual wage in El Paso County. Project managers, operators, facility managers, process engineers, and maintenance personnel are among the positions that will be added.

On Thursday morning, the Colorado Economic Development Commission approved $4.9 million in Job Growth Incentive Tax Credits for the company under the codename Project Blanc. Those credits can offset future state taxes, provided the company creates the targeted number of jobs at the stated salary range within an eight-year period.

An additional $84 million in incentives and support is coming from El Paso County, Colorado Springs Utilities, the City of Colorado Springs, and the Colorado Springs Chamber & Economic Development Corporation Deal Closing Fund and some other sources.

Combined, that works out to about $234,210 in combined state and local support per job being created. A figure for the capital investment in the plant was not available.

The company said it expects to start production in the second half of 2024 with an initial capacity of 2 gigawatts per year. The plant will supply solar cells to a solar module production facility in Arizona.

Following the example of its German manufacturing plant, Meyer Burger expects to source most of its supply chain, about 80%, from area vendors, which will create additional opportunities for jobs within the state.

Although Meyer Burger in theory could have sourced its solar cells from Europe, the Inflation Reduction Act offers significant tax credits for renewable energy equipment manufactured domestically. By making its solar equipment within the U.S., the company’s customers will be eligible for those tax breaks.

“Meyer Burger is currently working on additional multi-gigawatt offtake agreements in the U.S. with new customers. We are already exploring opportunities to add further solar cell and module production capacity in the country,” said company CEO Gunter Erfurt in the release.

Interstate Renewable Energy Council, which is based in Albany, N.Y., estimates that Colorado had 7,626 solar workers at the end of last year, which ranks seventh overall among U.S. states. Colorado employers added 200 solar jobs last year, representing a 2.7% growth rate, and IREC forecasts growth of 6.4% this year.

The entire cleantech industry in the state, of which solar is a part, has an economic impact of $4.6 billion and directly employs 62,000 people, which represents the fourth highest concentration in the country, according to OEDIT.

“Colorado’s strong economy and business-friendly environment continues to attract companies to move and grow here, and we are thrilled Meyer Burger has selected Colorado Springs for their expansion,” Gov. Jared Polis said in the release.

Colorado’s emphasis on renewable energy was a factor in Meyer Burger choosing Colorado over the other states it was considering — Arizona, Indiana and New York. And it has helped in landing other renewable energy companies trying to take advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

The state has committed to switching completely to renewable energy sources by 2040, and as of last year,  about 37% of the state’s electricity generation came from renewable sources.

VSK Energy Inc., a joint venture between India-based Vikram Solar and the private equity firm Phalanx Impact Partners and the development firm Das & Co., announced plans last month to invest $250 million in a new manufacturing facility in Brighton to make solar modules, creating 900 jobs once the plant is up and running.

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