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BATTLE CREEK, MI-Energy Conversion Devices Inc., a division of Auburn Hills, MI-based United Solar Ovonic LLC, plans to build a $220 million new manufacturing facility for solar cells here, and has an option to construct a second, identical facility here in the future. The buildings, each at 265,000 sf, are slated for Fort Custer Industrial Park.

The Michigan Economic Growth Authority has approved a state tax credit for 20 years to convince the company to build here instead of outstate, including a possible site in Pembroke, NY. The city and county are also assisting the state with incentives for the project, including a Renaissance Zone, infrastructure and property tax abatements, for a total of $120 million.

The company is a manufacturer of thin-film flexible solar laminate products for building-integrated and rooftop applications. Mark Morelli, the ECD president and CEO, said in a statement that there is a strong worldwide demand for the product. “We are expanding our capacity to 1 gigawatt by the end of fiscal year 2012,” he said in the statement. He said the Battle Creek location was selected to offer access to qualified workforces and the ability to quickly begin construction and ramp up production. The cells will be made here, and then finished at other locations into solar laminates or integrated into products. “Without (the incentives), we would not have been able to expand in this community.”

Company officials refused to comment more, especially about the potential second facility. “We have no details on another building,” a spokeswoman tells GlobeSt.com. State officials also refused further comment. In an Oct. 14 memo written by Val Hoag and Amy Banninga with the Michigan Economic Development Corp., United Solar has proposed the establishment of the two facilities at a cost of about $440 million and an addition of 870 jobs. The company currently has 870 employees in the state, including manufacturing facilities in Greenville and Auburn Hills, as well as a plant in Tijuana, Mexico.

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