Fab2Farm Urban-Integrated Solar Power Concept
Applied Materials, best known for manufacturing computer chips, is working on a novel concept that would be right at home in SimCity. Fab2Farm, an urban-integrated solar power development concept, solves multiple problems at once by generating both clean power and jobs for nearby residents.
The key to Fab2Farm’s concept is the size of the thin film panels they produce; the modules are just over 60 square feet – nearly 8 times larger than conventional panels. This size of panel is ideally suited to a utility-owned solar farm, and their size means fewer panels are required to produce power. The scale at which the panels are produced brings the cost of solar energy down to about $3.50 per watt, which is on par with natural gas.
The Fab2Farm concept is simple; a factory is built near a small city to produce solar panels. This creates jobs for people in the city, and as panels are built and installed, they provide power for the city.
“Applied’s fab2farm model unlocks a low-risk, cost-effective opportunity to integrate solar PV electricity into a community’s energy portfolio,” said John Antone, vice president, Energy and Environmental Solutions, Applied Materials.
“This approach enables a significant share of solar PV investment dollars to remain in the community, in contrast to fossil fuel based power generation sources. It would create a regional economic engine generating a steady supply of skilled jobs and a path to achieving the lowest installed solar energy cost.”
The Applied SunFab production line, a cornerstone of the fab2farm model, is designed to produce 80MW of solar panels per year or enough to power 35,000 homes during peak energy use hours, and avoid 170,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. Applied estimates that this factory could generate more than 2,500 jobs and account for $400-$500 million of local economic activity per year.
“Optimized for utility-scale applications, Applied’s SunFab line produces the world’s most powerful thin film modules with approximately six times the output of conventional glass solar panels,” said Dr. Randhir Thakur, senior vice president and general manager of Applied’s Display and SunFab Solar Products Group.
“With an installed cost of less than $4.00/watt, SunFab panels cost less per unit area to manufacture and fully install than conventional glass panels. Over time, manufacturing efficiencies are expected to reduce these costs even further – while the price of electricity from conventional sources is forecast to continually rise.”
The concept of using a local workforce to produce commodities for their city could also easily be applied to almost anything an urban community needs to become sustainable, such as electric vehicles, or a comprehensive recycling facility where none exists.