AMAT solar bid paying off

Applied Materials (AMAT) is beginning to see some return on last July’s $464 million purchase of Longmont-based Applied Films, which develops thin-film deposition equipment used to make photovoltaic cells, which convert solar energy into electricity.

The Santa Clara, CA-based company announced today that Moser Baer India Ltd. has selected it to develop and install a new production line in New Delhi, India for thin-film solar modules. The company claims this will be the solar industry’s first “Generation 8.5” factory, capable of producing huge solar panels on glass sheets the size of a queen bed (7.2 x 8.5 feet).

The contract marks AMAT’s first deal to deliver a full solar panel production line, including chemical vapor deposition (CVD), physical vapor deposition (PVD) and laser scribing equipment, as well as factory software, automation and other supporting technologies. The Moser Baer facility should initially be able to manufacture enough solar panels each year to produce 40 megawatts of electricity, although company officials say they aim to expand its output by 2009 to 200 megawats per year.

The worldwide solar equipment market is expected to grow from about $1 billion in 2006 to more than $3 billion in 2010, by which time AMAT CEO Mike Splinter expects his company’s new solar business to be producing $500 million in annual revenue.

The purchase of Applied Films, which had more than 700 employees when acquired, is a key part of AMAT’s strategy to diversify beyond its core business of conventional semiconductor production equipment.

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