Kaco opens Texas inverter plant

Kaco New Energy has opened a new factory in the US state of Texas, representing a critically important venture for the German maker of PV inverters as it struggles in the booming Asian markets.

The factory was built as part of a deal that Kaco struck last year with a US subsidiary of Korean polysilicon giant OCI, which is building 400MW of PV capacity for San Antonio’s municipal utility CPS Energy through 2016.

The 40,000 sq ft (3,700 sq m) plant will employ 72 people initially.

Last week the first 41MW project within the scope of that agreement – the Alamo I array – was commissioned by EPC player RES Americas, using Kaco’s XP series of central inverters. 

Nexolon, the Korean PV cell maker, is also part of the San Antonio arrangement, and is in the process of building a 200MW module factory in San Antonio, due for completion in early 2014 – several months behind schedule.

Last month, however, OCI in a surprise move tapped China’s ReneSola to supply modules for the Alamo II array – perhaps because Nexolon would not have been ready in time.

Based near Stuttgart, privately-held Kaco New Energy was the world’s largest third largest supplier of PV inverters last year, after German compatriot SMA Solar and Power-One, which is now owned by ABB.

However, Kaco has been bounced from the global top five in 2013 – overtaken by Omron and Tabuchi of Japan, and SunGrow of China – due to the fiery demand for PV in Asia, and the relative difficulty that incumbent Western players have in cracking those markets.

The US, where PV demand is expected to grow to 6.4GW next year, is thus a critical growth market for Kaco as European demand stagnates.  “Our US manufacturing plant here in Texas is completely set up to supply … inverters to any given place in North America,” says Kaco president Ralf Hofmann.