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DuPont ups production of Tedlar, used in solar panels

Post Time:Sep 04,2008Classify:Company NewsView:404

Sep 03, 2008 (The Fayetteville Observer - McClatchy-Tribune News Service via COMTEX) -- DD | Quote | Chart | News | PowerRating -- Sep. 3--DuPont sees big things ahead for the business of harnessing the sun's energy, and that could mean big things for DuPont's Fayetteville Works site.

Delaware-based DuPont announced Tuesday that it is expanding production of Tedlar films, which are used in a variety of applications, including solar panels.

The company is in the process of deciding where that will happen.

Last fall, DuPont's Fayetteville Works site began producing polymers that are used elsewhere to make Tedlar film. That's thanks to a $50 million investment announced in August 2006.

"We're in competition at this time (toward) being the next growth site," said Karen B. Wrigley, manager of DuPont's facilities along N.C. 87 at the Bladen-Cumberland county line.

She said local leaders have been working to keep the local site's selling points in the front of mind for those making the expansion decisions. Among the local assets, Wrigley said, is a flexible work force that can adapt quickly.

Wherever it happens, DuPont's expanded Tedlar capacity could kick in late in 2009 and more than double the company's Tedlar production, according to a DuPont news release.

In the release, Cynthia C. Green, vice president and general manager for DuPont Fluroproducts, said, "The photovoltaic industry is in the midst of a substantial surge globally, and the demand for solar energy continues to increase."

DuPont expects the photovoltaic market (the science of converting the sun's rays into an electrical current) to grow by more than 50 percent in each of the next few years. Sales of several DuPont lines that fuel that industry could exceed $1billion within the next five years, according to the release.

"We would like to be part of the continued growth of this business and I think we're a viable candidate," said Wrigley.

She declined to say what other sites might be in competition for the expanded production.

Terry G. Gooding, a Richmond, Va.-based DuPont spokesman, said the company is considering sites in this country and abroad.

"DuPont is a global company," said Chuck Heustess, executive director of the Bladen County Economic Development Commission. "This is not a case of us competing with other states. They could put this anywhere in the world."

In May, DuPont announced it would begin construction on a research center in Hong Kong and a manufacturing facility in Shenzhen, China, to support the solar energy industry.

Yet Heustess is hopeful that the investment already made locally -- combined with what he described as a respected work force and management team -- could tip the scales.

"It gives us a little bit of an advantage that we already do this phase of the production here," Heustess said. "We have the people already trained to do this."

The Bladen County Board of Commissioners approved an incentives package Tuesday night after discussing the package in a closed session. A public hearing was held at which no one spoke.

The goal of incentives, Heustess said, would be to make the Fayetteville Works site attractive for Tedlar-related expansion as well as other DuPont projects. Getting natural gas to the site is a priority, he said.

A $50,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund helped DuPont's Fayetteville Works get the original Tedlar project announced two years ago.

Last week, The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved $500,000 in tax credits and a $1million sales tax refund for a Tedlar-related expansion to DuPont's plant in Louisville, Ky. The Fayetteville Works site receives the monomers it needs to produce Tedlar polymers from Louisville.

The Fayetteville Works site also produces unrelated products such as Butacite polyvinyl butyral used in laminated safety glass; Nafion, a plastic membrane used to separate fuel cell compartments; and APFO, also known as ammonium perfluorooctanoate, a key ingredient in Teflon. And, in 2005, SentryGlas Plus moved into the former Dymetrol facility on the grounds.

In total, about 500 DuPont employees and 300 full-time contractors work at DuPont's Fayetteville Works site.

Wrigley said about 20 of them work on the polymers needed to produce Tedlar film.

According to the Bladen County government's Web site, the proposed five-year incentive grant would be for 0.56 percent of the value of a new DuPont project. The public hearing notice also described the project as an initial investment of $45 million to $50 million that could create about nine DuPont jobs and about five contract jobs.

That's not a huge blip on the employment landscape. But Heustess said any jobs related to Tedlar represent a key strategy for development.

"There's a very real possibility that we are entering the alternative energy age," Heustess said. "You have to start somewhere, and the places that attract these early phases of investment are going to have an advantage."

One hope is that other companies -- or even DuPont -- might consider this area for production of photovoltaic end products such as solar panels. That probably would create more jobs, he said.

Each added technology and trained employee can make a difference, he said.

"You work your way to where you hopefully have a decided advantage when they go to put in place some of the future projects," he said.

Source: The Fayetteville Observer Author: shangyi

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