SoloPower debuts Portland fab

SoloPower debuts Portland fab

SoloPower officially opens its North Portland factory, which will make thin-film solar panels.

SoloPower Inc. is targeting vast tracts of territory -- big-box roofs that can't support the weight of conventional solar panels -- for its thin-film sheets produced by the mile. About 60 workers in blue smocks are already turning out gleaming rolls of solar material in a plant that's expected to employ 450 by early 2015.

Federal and local taxpayers are on the hook for 70 percent of the planned $340 million plant investment, inviting comparisons to Solyndra Inc., the California solar manufacturer that went bust after receiving a $535 million U.S. loan guarantee, embarrassing President Barack Obama's administration. But SoloPower chief executive Tim Harris dismisses the parallel, saying his company's production process is far more efficient and cost effective and targets a different market.