Cookson, the UK-based ceramics manufacturer, sees big opportunities in China's solar cell manufacturing industry and plans to build a second crucible manufacturing facility in China to copy with strong demand.
The total investment in the new facility in Jiangsu province will be just over £11m and it is expected to be completed by the end of 2008. All production from this facility will be supplied, under a five year agreement, to a nearby solar cell factory being constructed by Glory Silicon Energy.
The GSE factory will represent one of the largest of its type in the world, capable of producing solar cells generating 1,500MW of electricity.
Cookson has completed two new crucible facilities so far in 2007. One is in Wei Ting, Jiangsu province, close to the planned new facility, while the other is in Poland. Both of these are expected to be at full capacity by the first quarter of 2008.
A key component for the mass production of silicon ingots is the availability of large ceramic crucibles in which the ingots are cast. The Wei Ting facility will be capable of producing 40,000 solar crucibles a year.
The solar industry accounts for just small part of the market for Cookson's ceramic products with the steel industry is by far the biggest user. Cookson also announced extensions to existing relationships with two of China's steel producers, bringing the total value of its three new investments in China to £20m.