Tuesday, June 30, 2009

QuantaSol Unveils 28.3% Efficient Single-Junction Solar Cell

World record made public at UK's Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition

Business Wire, Kingston-Upon-Thames, England, Jun 30, 2009

QuantaSol Ltd, a new independent designer and manufacturer of strain-balanced quantum-well solar cells, has developed what it believes to be the most efficient single junction solar cell ever manufactured. Developed in just two years, QuantaSol's single-junction device has been independently tested by Fraunhofer ISE as achieving 28.3% efficiency at greater than 500 suns.

QuantaSol was established in June 2007 as a spin-out of Imperial College London to commercialise the University's solar cell IP and offer devices to concentrator Photovoltaic (PV) systems developers. Imperial will be featuring a QuantaSol device as part of its presence at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition in London this week.

"Our technology is the industry's best kept secret. This is the first time that anyone has successfully combined high efficiency with ease of manufacture, historically a bug-bear of the solar cell industry," said Kevin Arthur, QuantaSol's CEO. "We're now gearing up to provide multi-junction cells of even higher efficiencies as early as Q1 2010."

QuantaSol's approach combines several nanostructures, of two or more different alloys, in order to obtain synthetic crystals that overcome the problems associated with current solar cell designs. It also greatly enhances the photovoltaic conversion efficiency.

The company, which has a development laboratory in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, completed a GBP 2m second funding round last week. It will now concentrate on cutting the cost of ownership of solar energy by moving to multi-junction devices.

Editor's notes:

QuantaSol is funded and backed by the Low Carbon Accelerator and Imperial Innovations, and its strain-balanced quantum-well solar cell (SB-QWSC) is believed to be the highest performing single-junction concentrator cell in the world with the potential to enhance multi-junction cells to record efficiencies very soon.

Solar cell manufacturers need to find a crystalline semiconductor material that exhibits the optimum light absorption range, is a good absorber of solar radiation (silicon, for instance, is weak), has essentially the same lattice spacing of commercially available substrates like Gallium Arsenide or Germanium, and can be deposited seamlessly on those substrates to form a unique artificial crystal with no defects or unwanted impurities, using commercially viable crystal-growth technologies. None of the known semiconductor compounds or alloys can meet all these conditions at the same time.

QuantaSol's approach combines several nanostructures of two or more different alloys in order to obtain synthetic crystals that overcome the problems associated with current solar cell designs and also enhances the photovoltaic conversion efficiency.


U.S. to Speed Solar Energy Development in the West

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signs an order that sets aside some 676,000 acres of federal land -- more than half in California -- for study and environmental reviews.
Los Angeles Times/Julie Cart
The Obama administration on Monday announced that it would put solar energy development in the West on a fast track, with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signing an order that sets aside more than 1,000 square miles of public land for two years of study and environmental reviews.

Although the clean-energy initiative identifies some 676,000 acres of federal land for study, more than half -- 351,000 acres in the Mojave Desert -- are in California. According to maps released by the Interior Department, the solar project areas abut the border of Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave Preserve and two national wildlife refuges in the southeastern part of the state.

The proposed California solar-generating areas are projected to have the annual capacity to produce 39,000 to 70,000 megawatts of electricity at full development -- enough to serve millions of homes. There are three large solar projects undergoing environmental review in the state.

President Obama has promised to promote the use of federal land for the production of alternative energy and has set a goal of obtaining 10% of the nation's electricity from renewable sources by 2010. Salazar vowed to have 13 "commercial-scale" solar projects under construction by the end of 2010.

Federal land managers have already announced plans to establish areas of concentrated wind and geothermal energy harvesting. The Bureau of Land Management has gotten about 470 renewable energy project applications. Those include 158 active solar applications, covering 1.8 million acres.

Monday's announcement in Las Vegas opens up land in six Western states to leasing by private companies. "We are putting a bull's-eye on the development of solar energy on our public lands," Salazar said.

Conservation groups reacted to the announcement with praise but cautioned that even so-called green projects could conflict with protected lands and sensitive species.

"We support the identification of the best places for renewable energy on public lands," said Alex Daue of the Wilderness Society. "We can't have a repeat of the oil and gas industry, where it's spread wide across the landscape anywhere they want. We need a focused look at places where there's the least conflict and highest opportunity for success."

In California, the Mojave Desert is already the scene of intense interest from energy companies and a land rush to apply for solar leases. Environmentalists are monitoring maps so that leasing doesn't take place in wilderness, areas of importance for wildlife and other resources, and high-value recreation sites. The Mojave is home to all of that, including national parks, threatened and endangered species and one of the West's most popular off-road-vehicle recreation areas.

Salazar said federal agencies had already ruled out solar leasing on protected lands and would examine potential effects on wildlife before allowing projects to proceed. The two-year environmental study will cost $22 million, he said.

See the original article here

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dept of Energy Announces Investments in Photovoltaic Research

Photovoltaic Supply Chain and Cross-Cutting Technologies

The Photovoltaic (PV) Supply Chain and Cross-Cutting Technologies project identifies and accelerates the development of unique PV products or processes that will impact the solar industry. The project supports the overall goals of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Program (SETP or Solar Program).

The PV Supply Chain and Cross-Cutting Technologies activities are a component of the systems development and manufacturing activities, within the SETP PV subprogram.


Non-solar companies have many technologies and practices that are beneficial to the PV industry. These capabilities can be used in PV-specific manufacturing methods and products. Examples of such high-impact technologies include processing steps to improve throughput, yield, or diagnostics; material solutions to improve reliability or enhance optical, thermal, or electrical performance; or system components that streamline installation. The cost reduction as a result of these improvements might be small in terms of a single product or processing step, however the overall impact of these ideas become significant when implemented across the PV industry.

The funded projects range from automated assembly to semiconductor fabrication, and target manufacturing and product cost reduction with the potential to have an impact within 2 to 6 years on a substantial segment of the PV industry.


DOE will invest up to $22 million in the following 24 new PV Supply Chain and Cross-Cutting Technologies projects. The investment is part of $117.6 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, which was announced in May 2009. The selected applicants are listed by two topic areas. These project partners will provide more than $50 million in matching funding.

Topic 1: Proof of Concept Technical/Feasibility Assessment

Each project below receives up to $150,000 during a 12-month period to evaluate or assess and test an idea that can impact the solar photovoltaic industry.

Accustrata ($150,000)
College Park, Maryland

* Develop a real-time optical monitoring system based on fiber optic reflectance measurements optimized for use in a thin-film production environment to improve the process flow and reduce costs.

Advanced Cooling ($150,000)
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

* Develop new bonded copper thermal interface for high concentration PV that experiences rapid thermal cycles with a design that targets lower thermal stress and resistance.

Alenas Imaging ($148,000)
Conway, Massachusetts

* Develop an inspection tool to detect micro-cracks in PV cells using thermo-reflectance at one-tenth the equipment cost of the best current methods.

Fraunhofer USA, Inc. Center for Laser Technology ($150,000)
Plymouth, Michigan

* Develop a laser process to create pitting on solar cell surface to increase light absorption with the goal of providing superior optical surfaces, improved device performance, and reduced use of hazardous chemicals.

Optomec, Inc. ($150,000)
Albuquerque, New Mexico

* Enhance an existing non-contact printing mechanism to support fully printed, fine feature collector lines on the front surface of crystalline silicon solar cells.

Palo Alto Research Center, Inc. ($150,000)
Palo Alto, California

* Develop a novel approach to creating the front side metallization and selective emitter layer of crystalline silicon solar cells, using selective laser ablation to create contact points on the front surface and a screen printer to make the connections with conductive paste.

Photonic Glass Corp. ($149,000)
Sharon, Massachusetts

* Reduce glass surface reflectance by ion beam surface modification to create a graded index of refraction.

PPG Industries, Inc. ($149,000)
Allison Park, Pennsylvania

* Develop coatings that can be applied in a continuous automated process at a lower temperature and labor intensity than current PV protective materials like ethylene vinyl acetate.

SiOnyx Inc. ($128,000)
Beverly, Massachusetts

* Develop a silicon surface treatment with femtosecond laser processing technology to enable increased light absorption and significantly larger spectral bandwidth for film silicon PV.

Solar Red ($150,000)
San Jose, California

* Develop an all-AC, building integrated, thin-film cadmium telluride PV system for asphalt shingled sloped roofs. This plug-and-play, snap-in/snap-out AC PV system will significantly reduce installation costs.

Texas Engineering Experiment Station ($147,000)
College Station, Texas

* Develop a novel method for thin film poly-Si cell fabrication that has a low thermal budget that is applicable to large area, low cost substrates for mass production. Texas Engineering will use a pulsed rapid thermal annealing process to convert a-Si to poly-Si via a vertical crystallization mechanism.

University of Houston ($150,000)
Houston, Texas

* Evaluate an ion beam-assisted deposition process to double the efficiency of thin film PV while benefiting from the advantage of thin film manufacturing by the use of less material and roll-to-roll continuous processing.

University of Missouri ($150,000)
Rolla, Missouri

* Develop processes to recycle solar grade silicon from top-cut scraps and slurry wastes from the wire sawing process.

The University of Texas at Arlington ($120,000)
Arlington, Texas

* Demonstrate the feasibility of electrodeposited and solution-doped transparent conducting oxides (TCOs) such as zinc oxide, which is an "on-top" TCO that can be deposited on semiconductors in thin-film and future solar cells including amorphous silicon, copper indium gallium selenide and emerging solar cells.

Washington Technology Center ($136,000)
Seattle, Washington

* Develop nano-imprinted diffraction gratings for light trapping in crystal-silicon film PV, since light trapping is essential in low cost thin crystalline silicon devices to ensure acceptable light absorption and current generation.

Topic 2: Research, Development, and Demonstration

Each project below receives up to $3 million during a 3-year period for research, evaluation, verification, testing, and demonstration. The winners are listed below with more specific project details.

3M ($1.2 million)
St. Paul, Minnesota

* Develop a polymer barrier film that has lower inherent costs and higher transparency, replacing traditional barrier films.

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. ($1.58 million)
Allentown, Pennsylvania

* Develop an advanced radio frequency plasma chemical vapor deposition process with new gas-phase additives to achieve deposition for thin film silicon solar cells at increased growth rates and reactant utilization.

DuPont ($3 million)
Wilmington, Delaware

* Develop a continuous, in-line manufacturing tool using atomic layer deposition to produce a flexible ultra moisture barrier film to enable new thin film flexible PV products.

General Electric (two awards)
Niskayuna, New York

* Develop a system integrated, distributed PV architecture employing module-level DC to DC Maximum Power Point Tracker, rack, module, and power conversion components that will reduce increasing the energy yield, reducing total lifecycle costs, and improving overall system reliability and availability. ($1.8 million)
* Develop a novel functional thin film platform that will allow for boosting the efficiency of any solar cell using down-shifting materials. Down-shifting is the process of converting high energy near-UV light within the solar spectrum to lower energy light that is more effectively used by the solar cell. ($1.2 million)

Sierra Solar Power ($3 million)
Fremont, California

* Accelerate development of a high-volume manufacturing silicon epitaxy growth system, which is optimized for PV production that will enable the commercial manufacture of cells made from thin layers of monocrystalline silicon on cheap metallurgical-grade silicon wafers, reducing feedstock costs and capital equipment expenses.

Silicon Genesis Corporation ($3 million)
San Jose, California

* Accelerate development of a silicon wafering tool that enables a dramatic reduction in silicon waste by utilizing a cleaving process as opposed to the conventional wire saw process.

Varian Semiconductor ($3 million)
Gloucester, Massachusetts

* Develop a manufacturing tool that produces sheets of single-crystal film silicon in a continuous mode with significantly higher throughput and lower material costs than conventional manufacturing processes.

XeroCoat ($2.96 million)
Redwood City, California

* Develop and commercialize a low-cost, novel glass antireflective coating that enables high transmission of light and therefore higher energy output from any glass PV module.

Visit the Dept of Energy Website Here

LDK Solar Reaches Milestone with 660kg Silicon Ingot

LDK Solar Co., Ltd., a manufacturer of multicrystalline solar wafers, today announced that it has successfully produced a multicrystalline silicon ingot weighing 660 kilograms (kg).

The 660 kg ingot was the largest ingot produced at LDK Solar and represents a 46.7% increase in capacity from the standard 450 kg ingot. Maximum furnace capacity is approximately 800 kg.

"We reached an important milestone on the roadmap of our technology development for multi-crystalline silicon ingots," stated Dr. Yuepeng Wan, Chief Technology Officer at LDK Solar. "We have continued to develop technology aimed at solidifying and augmenting LDK Solar's cost leadership position. Our objective with this development was to improve product quality and at the same time decrease the cost of multicrystalline ingot production. The larger ingots will lower capital expenditure and contribute to the reduction of production cost. The increased charge size directly contributes to lower power consumption, higher yields, improved efficiencies of downstream processing equipment, and reduced unit consumption of consumables and some direct costs."

See the original article here

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Energy Innovations' Fully Integrated Sunflower System

Energy Innovations, the same company that released the ray tracker recently unveiled a concentrated photovoltaics (CPV) product designed for commercial roof tops. The Energy Innovations Sunflower concentrates sunlight similar to a magnifying glass onto highly efficient solar cells. Although we have discussed these types of products in the past, the SunFlower is the only CPV product on the market that has received UL certification!

This means soon the SunFlower will qualify for state incentives, which makes the SunFlower a much more sought after CPV product. The SunFlower system not only magnifies the sun onto high-efficiency cells to generate extreme output for low cost, but also has a built in tracking system, enabling it to follow the sun through out the day, to increase overall efficiency even further. The tracking system is powered by the energy that the SunFlower creates and is compatible with non-roof penetrating mounting systems, making the installation easy and more affordable.

As you can see the SunFlower produces more energy through out the course of a day and uses less silicon (the expensive element of the solar panel) thus making the system more cost effective than traditional PV. Since concentrating solar power systems only work in areas with direct rays of sunlight, the systems are most cost effective in areas such as the southwestern us and Hawaii. The light is concentrated 800x onto solar cells that have a 35% efficiency rate!

The first units will ship in early 2009, and we're excited to see some of these units deployed in the real world to see how well they will handle heat. What I don't see on this product is a heatsink or cooling system. How do you think the SunFlower stays cool when its concentrating the sun 800x?

See the original article here

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

2009 Cell Awards Announced

PV Tech/ June 3, 2009

The Cell Award event at Intersolar Munich on May 28 highlighted some of the best tools, technologies and regions from the PV manufacturing elite. The event was initiated to address the need for an independently-judged platform upon which to assess the most successful and esteemed technologies and potentials in the solar industry.

The International Solar Technology Awards are organised by a group of leading solar media, research organisations and industry associations. Award winners were determined by the combination of scores from an expert judging panel and a popular vote. The judging committee included senior technical experts from the Fraunhofer ISE, Moser Baer, SolarWorld, Q-Cells, Suntech, and ChinaSunergy.

The awards were presented by leading industry representatives, including Nick Sarno, Senior Vice President of Manufacturing at LDK Solar; Holger von Hebel, President of ersol; Dr Uros Merc, CEO of Bisol; Eleni Despotou, Policy Director and Deputy Secretary General of EPIA; and Jerry Stokes, President of Suntech Europe.

“Technological developments are at the heart of driving production costs down to ensure the photovoltaics industry continues on its path to grid-parity and beyond,” said LDK's Sarno. “It was a pleasure to be involved in the Cell Award ceremony and congratulate the finalists and winners of the categories that thousands of people in the PV industry voted for.”

In the seven categories, the organisers came up with a shortlist of two or three entries per category.

The winners of the 2009 Cell Award are:

Industry Choice Award

+ BTU International: Meridian in-line diffusion system

Best technical product for module assembly

+ EFD: PV cell ribbon and bus bar methodology

Best process technology c-Si cell manufacturing lines

+ SiXtron: SunBox silane-free coating system

Best technical product for thin-film module manufacturing

+ Oerlikon Solar: KAI 1200 PECVD system

Best technology for silicon feedstock and wafer processes

+ tec5: VINSPEC SP in-Line process control

Best region for manufacturing solar technologies

+ IMG Saxony: Solar Valley

Green Solar Manufacturing Award

+ Linde Electronics: Onsite Fluorine Generator

Overall, the Awards were a huge success, with several of the entrants reiterating their intention to not only enter the awards again next year, but also to spread the word of the potential visibility in the industry that being part of the awards can offer.

Entries for the 2010 Cell Award will open in September during the 24th EU PVSEC. Further details will be available in September on www.cellaward.com.

See the original article here

U.S. Bancorp & SolarCity Team up for Solar Power Plan

Reuters/ June 3, 2009

A unit of U.S. Bancorp and privately-held SolarCity have teamed up to wire homes and businesses in California, Oregon and Arizona, with no upfront costs, while taking advantage of government tax credits.

The agreement, for which no value was disclosed, allows U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp., a unit of U.S. Bancorp, to take advantage of tax breaks including a solar tax credit.

In return, the bank pays for the purchase and installation of solar power by SolarCity, which markets and maintains the systems. Homeowners and businesses purchase the electricity generated from their roofs.

"We are able to offer a home owner or a business owner a solar financing solution that costs them less than if they bought the same amount of electricity from the utility," said Lyndon Rive, chief executive of SolarCity, from company headquarters in Foster City, Calif.

Homeowners also may choose to pay the cost of the installation, which can run to $20,000 and has a payback period for eight to 10 years, Rive said.

Darren Van't Hof, vice president of the U.S. Bancorp unit said in a telephone interview from St. Louis that the two companies have created a tax equity fund which finances the solar lease plan.

The joint fund reaps the benefits of the tax breaks, sharing the revenue stream between the bank and SolarCity, he said.

The company takes care of maintenance for 15 years, after which a homeowner can renew the plan, upgrade, buy the system or have it removed, Rive said.

Rive said the company already has a six-month backlog and the agreement, signed a few days ago, will allow it to whittle away that backlog and sell more systems.

"It is allowing us to hire an additional 100 installers," increasing the force to 300, he said.

Rive said he expects that the company will sell 3,000 systems this year, and that is only the beginning. He said the company's income tripled last year and he sees huge growth in the coming eight years, which is how long Congress designed the tax break to last.

"We expect to deploy hundreds of thousands of systems over this time period," he said.

The privately held company is three years old and has received $56 million in venture capital backing, $25 million from solar panel producer First Solar. The remainder comes from entrepreneur Elon Musk and from venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

SolarCity says it is the largest residential installer of solar-powered systems in the United States.

(Reporting by David Lawsky; editing by Carol Bishopric)

See the original article here

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Solar Executives Seeing Signs of Recovery

Reuters/Michael Erman and Nichola Groom/June 2, 2009

Solar power executives are seeing encouraging signs of what could be a major recovery in U.S. solar demand, but they are still cautious about the rest of this year after being pummeled by the global credit crisis.

"The prospects for 2010 and beyond are quite significant," Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd Chief Strategy Officer Steven Chan told the Reuters Global Energy Summit on Tuesday. "Next year, I wouldn't be surprised if the U.S. market tripled off of this year."

The solar industry was virtually unscathed by the economic downturn until late last year, when funding for all types of projects dried up.

That lack of financing combined with a pullback in solar tax breaks in Spain released a flood of solar panels into the market, driving prices down and hurting producers' profits.

But Chan and Tom Werner, the chief executive of U.S. rival SunPower Corp, see positive signs in both the credit markets and in U.S. policy to support renewable energy.

Despite the weak economy, Chan expects the solar market in the United States to be about flat in 2009 compared with 2008. At the same time, Suntech expects to double its U.S. market share to 20 percent this year from 10 percent last year.

The federal stimulus package has already helped improve sentiment in the market, Werner said, though he does not expect those funds to affect the company's bottom line until "the back half of the year, perhaps Q4." He sees a much larger impact in 2010.

SunPower has seen six weeks of encouraging trends during the first half of this quarter, Werner added, but was quick to warn that the Unites States could be in the middle of a W-shaped recovery that would not be sustained.


Energy Conversion Devices Inc CEO Mark Morelli was more sober in his outlook for the U.S. solar market this year, arguing that access to project financing remains scarce and government stimulus funds have yet to kick in.

"It's marginally better," said Morelli, whose company reported an 81 percent drop in quarterly profit in May and declined to provide any outlook.

"The issue is really the pace by which things are moving," he said. "It's very slow. The U.S. market in particular is very slow."

ECD makes lightweight, flexible solar laminates for rooftops and buildings that convert sunlight into electricity. The thin film products are made from amorphous silicon and unlike traditional solar panels, do not rely on costly crystalline silicon as their primary raw material.

Like its larger competitor, First Solar Inc, the company has resorted to providing financing to its customers in order to get projects started.

But even Morelli said he was "a bit optimistic" about 2010.

"We don't know when the financing will come back; we just hope it will come back," he said.

For its part, Suntech said it was seeking between $200 million and $500 million from Chinese banks to help fund solar projects outside of China.

"They are now open to funding for overseas projects and overseas trade finance," Chan said of the discussions the company is having with Chinese banks. "It's just a question of their due diligence and getting them comfortable with the projects."

See the original article here