After three years of rapid growth in Bellingham, solar panel manufacturer Itek Energy is planning a new facility in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Itek Energy started in September 2011 with a handful of employees. They produced 2.1 megawatts of solar capacity in 2012. Now, the company has 74 employees, and they expect to produce 12.2 megawatts of capacity by the end of the year, Itek Energy Vice President Kelly Samson said.
By opening a facility in Minnesotat, Samson said the company hopes to grow with the Midwest market for solar energy. The company picked Minnesota because it’s one of several states that offers tax credits for purchasing locally-made solar panels.
The facility will open in early 2015 with four employees, Itek Energy president and founding principal John Flanagan said.
At first, the new facility won’t produce entire solar modules. Instead, they will receive laminates — panels of glass and solar cells — from the Bellingham facility. Employees in Minneapolis will install frames and junction boxes, which contain the module’s wiring system. Before the frames and junction boxes are installed, laminates are about half an inch think, so Itek will be able to ship a lot of them at once.
Samson said he expects the Minnesota facility will be manufacturing entire panels, laminates included, within 18 months.
Itek Energy’s 40,000-square-foot headquarters, at 3886 Hammer Drive in the Irongate neighborhood, is bursting at the seams.
“It’s kind of mindblowing, actually, to see where we are now,” Karl Untershuetz, the company’s business development manager, said. “This year we tripled on last year.”
Though Itek Energy is expanding to the midwest, Flanagan said the company’s leadership intends to keep its headquarters in Bellingham.