Under the German federal government commitment to the ‘Photovoltaics Innovation Alliance,’ launched in August last year, Manz has received partial R&D funding for two projects, covering CIGS thin film technology and crystalline silicon technology.
Manz noted that it had entered into the first cooperative research project in relation to CIGS thin film technology since licensing the technology from Würth Solar. The project is also in collaboration with Würth Solar’s former technology partner, the Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research (ZSW) in Stuttgart.
The project has a total budget of €12.5 million, according to Manz, which said it would receive a total of €3.8 million in subsidies over the next four years from Germany's Federal Ministry for the Environment.
Tellingly, the project will focus on how to rapidly increase CIGS module efficiency levels in manufacturing, since ZSW's laboratory holds the 20.3% world record for efficiency of the technology, but manufacturing efficiency levels have yet to reach 13%.
Importantly, the project will simultaneously cover ways to reduce the capital investment requirements for CIGS production lines and focus on reducing overall manufacturing costs.
Recent news and industry observer analysis that Veeco had exited the CIGS equipment market has reignited concerns that thin-film technologies are struggling to compete with conventional crystalline technologies, especially in an environment of rapidly falling prices.
The second program involves Manz and solar module manufacturer Schott Solar in a project to develop key, novel technologies that are affordable in the real world production environment, while boosting solar cell conversion efficiencies. A key project goal, according to Manz, is the focus on opportunities to drastically cut material costs, though further details were not disclosed.
However, wafers and silver paste have typically been two of the largest cost contributors in solar cell manufacturing.
The silicon solar cell project will be carried out in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE). The project has been allocated €7.7 million, with €1.85 million coming from government subsidies. The contributions being made by Manz and Schott Solar were not disclosed.
“The issue here is Germany's ability to compete in our industry on an international scale, and we are up against strong research initiatives in many countries, not only in China,” commented Dieter Manz, founder and CEO of Manz AG. “For Manz, the support is important as we move down the path toward our strategic goal of becoming the leading supplier of fully integrated production systems.”