SoloPower Inc of San Jose, CA is a  manufacturer of flexible, lightweight copper indium gallium di-selenide (CIGS) thin-film photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules on stainless-steel materials using a proprietary low-cost roll-to-roll electro-deposition process.

SoloPower has received a $197m loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy (DOE) on a conditional commitment.The funds will support construction of a $340m high-volume manufacturing facility and 400MW of modules annually in Wilsonville in the longer term.

Other companies to have  got the benefit of the guarantee program include CdTe panel maker Abound Solar that received a $400 million guarantee commitment late last year, while the proposed 290 MW Agua Caliente solar power project in Arizona, which will use solar panels made by First Solar, got $967 million guarantee in January 2011.

The company has also applied for a Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) of $20m from the State of Oregon. The State funding supplements $51.575m in fourth-round equity option financing raised last December from existing investors Crosslink Capital (of San Francisco), Convexa A/S (of Oslo, Norway) and Hudson Clean Energy Partners LP (of Teaneck, NJ) in order to expand SoloPower’s existing 109,000ft2 small-scale production plant in San Jose and to finance construction of the new plant.

Although they do not turn sunlight into electrical energy as efficiently as rigid crystalline silicon PV cells, flexible CIGS modules such as SoloPower’s should be much easier to install and cheaper to make, meaning that their overall cost-effectiveness will provide a better return in many applications.

The plant is expected to provide direct employment to about 500 people at full capacity. About 270 construction jobs will be created to build the plant, and additional jobs are also likely to be generated.

SoloPower known for its  lightweight flexible modules are certified to both UL and IEC standards with up to 260Wp per panel, and are currently being sold in small volumes to leading customers in five countries.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said of the SoloPower deal, which is funded via the 2008 Recovery Act: “Investments like these are going to help America become a world leader again in clean energy manufacturing.”

SoloPower’s CEO Tim Harris added: “This backing allows us to rapidly ramp up our production and to promote the spread of clean, distributed solar power to rooftops and on the ground, while providing hundreds of quality manufacturing jobs using some of the most advanced technology in the world.”