June 22, 2023

A new solar panel manufacturing plant that could bring up to 900 new, high-paying jobs will be under construction soon in Brighton, according to a news release.

Gov. Jared Polis and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade announced Thursday the VSK Energy LLC project to build a plant capable of making 2 Gigawatts worth of solar panels, with a planned expansion to 4 GW, that is scheduled to open in 2024. It’s part of the company’s plans for $1.5 billion in investments in U.S. plants. The Brighton project, at $250 million, is the first.

“The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act was a landmark moment for the clean energy future of the United States,” said Sriram Das, co-chairman of VSK Energy and managing director of Das & Co., in the release. “The Biden Administration and Congress have called for immediate action and, through our partnership in VSK, we are taking a decisive step towards achieving solar technology self-sufficiency, fortifying America’s energy security, and propelling large-scale solar deployment.

“I am also particularly proud to bring together leaders from both the United States and India to make this investment and commitment to America’s clean energy future.”

Polis welcomed the new company, which went by the code name Pothos — a plant with heart-shaped leaves — as it was courting OEDIT for economic development incentives.

“Colorado is one of the top states in the country for solar production so this expansion in Brighton will help build upon our plans to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2040, create more than 900 new good-paying jobs for Coloradans and contribute to our state’s thriving economy,” Polis said in a statement. “More and more companies are flocking to Colorado because we are the best place to live and do business, so we are thrilled to welcome VSK to Colorado.”

VSK Energy, a U.S.-owned joint venture between India-based solar energy providers Vikram Solar, private equity firm Phalanx Impact Partners and investment and development firm Das & Co., expects to invest $250 million in the facility to be built at the newly completed 76 Commerce Center, a light industrial park located east of Interstate 76 at E. Bridge St. and East I-76 Frontage Rd. in Brighton. The industrial park is owned by Mortenson Properties and Hyde Development.

According to Das, the company intends to develop manufacturing capacity for each step of the solar supply chain, including polysilicon ingots, from which cells, wafers, and modules are made. VSK plans to take in raw materials and develop a solar panel from start to finish, using raw materials sourced from the United States.

The second phase of the company’s plans comes “would complete VSK’s vertical integration of the solar manufacturing process with the development of a factory in a Southern U.S. state to produce solar ingots, cells, and wafers with a planned annual capacity of 4 GW,” according to Yahoo Finance. “VSK Energy intends to invest up to $1.25 billion in the new factory which is expected to commence operations in 2025 following the evaluation and finalization of available federal, state, regional, and local incentives for the project.”

Final assembly of panels will take place at the Brighton plant.

Das said there are only two other announced vertically integrated projects in the U.S. in an email to The Denver Gazette.

Mortenson will oversee the engineering and construction of the factory.

“Brighton is a prime location for clean tech companies to locate and grow with the vast number of resources available and we welcome VSK to our community,” said Robin Martinez, president & CEO of the Brighton Economic Development Corporation.

The Colorado Economic Development Commission approved up to $9,173,689 in performance-based Job Growth Incentive Tax Credits for VSK over an 8-year period.

Job openings include for engineers, technical operators, manufacturing laborers, and administrative staff, with an average salary of more than $70,000, according to VSK. This is more than 105% of the average annual wage of Adams County.

“We are confident that the company will greatly benefit from our exceptional local talent pool, while our robust transportation infrastructure will effortlessly connect them with both domestic and international markets,” said Adams County Commission Chairman Steve O’Dorisio.

By Scott Weiser

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