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Solar company opens new plant on Iron Range

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A new solar energy plant on the Iron Range celebrated a grand opening Monday.

Seattle-based Silicon Energy began training workers to produce photovoltaic systems at a plant in Mountain Iron last month. Minnesota was chosen for Silicon Energy's second plant because of a state incentive program encouraging purchase of solar panels made in-state, said company president Gary Shaver.

And Shaver said Silicon Energy chose the Iron Range for workers. 

"There's a good workforce up here with a background in electronics, and there was a supportive local government that was looking to attract a renewable energy company to their renewable energy park, so it just seemed like a really good arrangement."

15 employees have been hired, with plans for up to 10 additional positions. Silicon Energy received a $1.5 million state loan to purchase equipment. The new $3 million plant was also built with state financial assistance.

The company makes photovoltaic panels for homes and businesses. Shaver said Minnesota is an ideal place for photovoltaic installations. Snow and rain scours and cleans the panels, Shaver said.

"Solar does not like to be hot. It loves to be cold," Shaver said. "When it's clear and cold the systems can actually outperform their rated system level."