Today I toured the new solar panel manufacturing plant at SolarTech Universal, Riviera Beach, FL. SolarTech is a new module manufacturer here in Florida and the buzz around the new factory is exciting. I had the unique opportunity to walk the manufacturing floor and look closely at the high-tech machinery. I also got to talk with some of the employees working on the equipment, who are making the solar panels first hand.
Here are some of the photos I was allowed to take while walking the manufacturing floor:
I had the opportunity to hold a solar cell/wafer that was rejected by their quality control process. From what I noticed, there were many different check-points within the entire process of creating a solar panel. This leads me to believe that they are creating a great product.
I learned a bunch of things today about the solar panel manufacturing process. One of the coolest parts of the process was towards the end when they are testing the panel. Once the frame is attached and everything is assembled, the panel is passed on a conveyor to a visual inspector who checks the connections, checks the cells, cleans the module with a razor blade as needed, etc. Then he passes the panel to another tester who does a light test and an “x-ray” of the cells to catch anything unseen to the naked eye. On the screen pops up (literally) an x-ray of the solar panel cells, where you can see micro-fractures, blemishes and other imperfections. At this point the panel is also tested for its wattage and is given a label and barcode upon the flash of the light test. I do think this is pretty standard process for most up-to-date solar panel mfrs.
I want to note that the entire facility was extremely clean and organized. Everything had its place, every process was followed-through as if life depended on it (and there were only about 8-10 employees working on the production line). Someone put some money into every corner of this facility – $20M from what I’ve heard. I’m glad to say that it feels like someone also put some smarts into this facility and for that reason, I feel like they should have no problem with success.