Written by Jennifer KhoGerman solar manufacturer SolarWorld AG on Friday announced plans to open what it says is the largest solar-cell factory in North America. The manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, Ore., is expected to have the capacity to produce 150 megawatts of cells by early next year -- bringing the company's total North American capacity to about 200 megawatts -- and to grow to 500 megawatts by 2011, the company said. The company also is moving the headquarters for its U.S. operations, called SolarWorld Industries America, to Hillsboro from Camarillo, Calif., where it makes panels. SolarWorld bought the Oregon factory building -- a 480,000-square-foot facility measuring a quarter mile from end to end -- from Japan's Komatsu Group for $40 million last year and has invested a good chunk of change into growing and updating the facility. In total, the company expects to invest more than $400 million in the manufacturing plant, which will take raw silicon through the entire process to produce solar panels: refining the silicon, growing crystalline ingots and turning them into wafers, cells and finally panels. Founded in 1977, SolarWorld trades on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange under the ticker SWV. The move isn't the company's first foray into the United States. The company in 2006 bought Royal Dutch Shell's ( RDS.A) crystalline-solar-panel operations, becoming the country's largest solar-panel maker at the time. At the Solar Power International conference in San Diego earlier this week, Greentech Media sat down with Boris Klebensberger, chief operating officer of SolarWorld and president of SolarWorld Industries America, to chat about its U.S. expansion, as well as the global regulatory, competitive and economic landscape. Q: Why has SolarWorld decided the time is right to expand in the United States? A: We had a good feeling about the U.S. market and believed in it. The U.S. is perfectly made for PV -- lots of land, lots of sunshine, perfect conditions.