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Semprius Opening Solar-Panel Factory in North Carolina

Semprius Inc., a U.S. solar-panel maker, will open its first manufacturing plant this month in Henderson, North Carolina, countering the trend of solar factories shutting their doors.

The plant will eventually employ more than 250 people, Durham, North Carolina-based Semprius said today in a statement. The company’s products use lenses to focus sunlight on cells, increasing the amount of electricity produced and making its products more competitive, according to Chief Executive Officer Joe Carr.

At least four U.S. solar companies including Solyndra LLC filed for bankruptcy protection and shuttered their factories in the past 13 months, as a global glut drove down prices for standard photovoltaic panels.

Semprius’ modules are the most efficient in the world and “very price competitive” with rivals such as First Solar Inc. and SunPower Corp., among others, Carr said today in an interview. “In very high brightness areas where we do our best work, we’re highly competitive.” He declined to discuss cost details.

Semprius’s concentrated photovoltaic panels convert about 33.9 percent of the energy in sunlight into electricity, according to the statement. SunPower Corp., a panel maker majority owned by Total SA, said Mar. 27 its polysilicon solar cells are the most efficient in commercial production, with 24 percent conversion rates.

Solar Bankruptcies

The Henderson plant has the capacity to produce about 5 to 6 megawatts of panel per year, and may be expanded to as much as 35 megawatts, Carr said.

Semprius will deliver the panels to customers including Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and Siemens AG, which bought a roughly 16 percent stake in the company in June 2011.

Evergreen Solar Inc. and SpectraWatt Inc. both filed for bankruptcy in August 2011 and Solyndra did so the following month, followed in February by Energy Conversion Devices Inc.

Semprius developed its technology with support from the U.S. Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and has raised $40 million from investors over the past 15 months.

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