With the New Year gaining inexorable momentum and the Chinese Lunar Spring Festival right around the corner, it’s time for the first Solar Short Takes blog of 2011. This edition features news of U.S. cellmaker Suniva and its ground-breaking use of ion implantation in volume production of high-efficiency solar cells, a few tidbits about First Solar’s engineering focus areas and view of CIGS, an enabling material purification approach for CIGS, calls for papers from two of the leading PV conferences, and a few thoughts on a certain Korean-Chinese company’s (re)branding.
“Making CIGS is kind of like baking a cake; they all have flour, eggs, and milk. But we don’t tell you everything in the recipe,” quipped Stion CEO Chet Farris. In his company’s case, the cinnamon and nutmeg can be found in the constituent ratios, molybdenum back-contact secret ingredients, a nontraditional approach to depositing the transparent conductive oxide, and other ways of sweetening its copper-indium-gallium-sulfur-(di)selenide thin-film photovoltaic confection. The pastry analogy doesn’t end there: the upstart’s roadmap calls for a tandem-junction CIGSSe device, a veritable high-efficiency layer cake.
In this guest blog, Edwin Koot, founder of solarplaza.com, discusses the growing trend of the ever-increasing size of utility-scale PV power plants and the implications facing the industry as both the scale and number of such projects are set to increase.
When Stion started looking for sites to establish its first volume production plant, Mississippi was not even on its radar. After vetting some “100 different opportunities, state and local flavors and locations,” the San Jose-based thin-film PV module company had “narrowed the list down to a half-dozen or so pretty quickly,” including Texas, Virginia, Michigan, and California, according to CEO Chet Farris. But then Pierre Lamond of Khosla Ventures (a VC investor in Stion) provided an introduction for Farris with the current governor of the Magnolia state and former chairman of the Republican Party, Haley Barbour. Less than five months after an initial meeting between the two chief execs, Stion has agreed to—and the Mississippi state legislature approved—an incentive-laden deal for the CIGSSe firm to build its factory in Hattiesburg.
What do the California Solar Valley Ranch (250MW AC) and Agua Caliente (290MW AC) projects have in common? The obvious link is NRG Solar, which recently agreed to make hundreds of millions of dollars in equity investments and eventually buy the pair outright from SunPower and First Solar, respectively. But arguably the most important commonality the two projects share is this: both deals hinge on whether or not they get financing assistance from the Federal government in the form of a DOE loan guarantee.
Alan King of Canadian Solar notes that while the extension of the U.S. Treasury’s 1603 cash grant program has positive implications for the solar industry in 2011 and beyond, there’s much work still to be done to increase PV’s percentage of the country’s overall energy portfolio.
On December 10, 2010 the Czech President Vaclav Klaus approved a retroactive solar tax for solar power plants in the Czech Republic
When Abound Solar’s engineers calculate yields on the company’s 65MW panel production line, they take an “all-in” approach, from the beginning of the front end to the hindmost portions of the back end. The fast-following thin-film firm counts every sheet of TCO-coated glass against the overall yield, once the panes enter the noisy Loadinator washing tools every 30 seconds or so at the start of the manufacturing flow.
Contract manufacturing has become a burgeoning trend in the PV processing arena, with companies like SunPower, Q-Cells, MEMC/SunEdison, BP Solar, and Day4 Energy among those pushing varying portions of production out of their own doors to partners like Flextronics and Jabil. The latest outsourcing move comes from Amonix, which said it has signed up Flextronics to take on its production needs, although it turns out the EMS firm will be taking care of business mostly within the concentrator photovoltaics systems company’s own facilities. The press release provided a paucity of details about the deal, so I reached out to the CPV company and its CEO Brian Robertson, who filled in some of the missing info in an exclusive email interview.
Organic photovoltaics may have significant potential upside in the long run, with its ability to work in all manner of light spectrums and form factors, but for now, the thin-film stepchild is looking for market niches to exploit. Since it may be years before OPV can hope to compete in efficiency, cost, and reliability/lifetime in the major off- and on-grid commercial sectors, the Konarkas and Solarmers of the world need to find differentiating avenues for revenue generation so they can continue to develop the technology and ramp nascent production facilities to some sort of scale.