Better Days For Plant

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Green-building firm McCune Works Inc. plans to lease Schott Solar’s 200,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in south Albuquerque and restart photovoltaic panel production within six months.

CEO Chuck McCune announced the plan Monday morning at a news conference at Mesa del Sol where the Schott facility operated until June when it announced it was closing the plant and pulling out of the photovoltaic panel business worldwide. It employed 250 people there.

McCune said his company stepped in because the solar business fits well with his company’s focus on green technologies, and because he wanted to keep former Schott employees working.

“It’s unacceptable for us to see a facility like this with so many jobs go under,” McCune said.

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The company, which will operate as McCune Solar Works LLC, will use Schott’s plant to make solar modules under the new logo “Hott Solar PV.” Production is expected to begin in early 2013 and reach full capacity by the fourth quarter, employing about 130 people with a total yearly payroll of about $6.5 million.

The firm is still in final negotiations with Schott, but McCune said it’s basically a done deal.

“Our biggest concern now is to get enough orders coming in to ramp up and employ folks,” McCune said.

The new company faces a competitive domestic and global market. Schott is one of about 18 solar panel makers to close in the last 18 months because of depressed world demand and sharp competition from China and other Asian countries.

McCune specializes in green products, materials and building components and concentrates on disaster relief, providing shelter and housing, training programs and consulting. It designed a replacement shelter, for example, that can be built in four to five hours as a permanent replacement in disaster areas.

“Those facilities aren’t solar powered, so we can add PV to them,” said McCune Senior Vice President Gary Gunthorpe.

McCune will also sell panels in nontraditional markets, such as developing countries, and in traditional domestic and international markets. It also will offer temporary price incentives for New Mexico customers.

David Hughes CEO of Albuquerque’s Affordable Solar Group LLC, said McCune could gain a competitive edge by leveraging its own products.

“It can help them avoid competing directly with lower-cost modules from places like China,” he said.
— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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