Signet Solar, a leading manufacturer of silicon thin film photovoltaic (PV) modules and user of industrial and specialty gases, has announced plans to locate its second manufacturing site in the Sriperembudur Special Economic Zone near Chennai, India.

Signet Solar’s decision to expand manufacturing in India follows more than $400m in advance orders for the first three years of production. The company’s German plant is scheduled to start production by Q3 2008 and will have a total annual production capacity of 60 MW.

The announcement could be seen as a further sign of the rapidly developing PV and wider electronics market that is expected to boom over the course of the next five years, with the industrial and specialty gas market set to prosper as the demand for materials and ultimately gases increases accordingly.

“We are on schedule to start shipping products from our Dresden, Germany manufacturing plant by Q3 2008 and plan to begin shipments from India by 2010, with a goal of achieving grid parity pricing within the next five years,” said Rajeeva Lahri, CEO and Founder of Signet Solar.

“We have strong demand in Europe and the US and are pleased that our customers have shown confidence in our engineering capabilities and our global strategy to produce high quality modules on a large scale.”

Signet Solar chose to locate its next manufacturing site in India because of the attractive incentives offered by the Government, including the recently announced semiconductor policy initiative and because of the strong emerging demand for renewable energy in India. Chennai, a port city in southern India, is a growing manufacturing centre with well-developed infrastructure, world-class educational institutions and a large pool of engineering talent.

A. Raja, Honorable Minister of Information Technology and Communications, spoke of the policy in relation to the new announcement and enthused, “We are pleased that global companies are responding to the new national policy on semiconductors. Signet Solar’s state-of-the-art photovoltaic technology will play an important role in building nano-manufacturing infrastructure in India and deliver clean energy for sustainable, environmentally friendly growth.”

Large area thin film solar PV modules are in high demand in the utility and commercial market segment, with thin film modules expected to play a vital role in peak power production and stand-alone applications by avoiding massive investments in power infrastructure. The Spiritus Group, a leading industrial gas consultancy, estimates that the end-use segment of electronics is set to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 10.5% and will present a significant mode of industrial gas demand.

Signet Solar has already agreed a turnkey contract for gas services and supply with the US’ Air Products for a new PV module production facility in Mochau, Germany, announced in January 2008.