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Friday, September 29, 2006

Foundation PV CYCLE – European photovoltaic industry initiative for solar module take back and recycling

PV CYCLE, a European initiative to address Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) issues in Photovoltaics, was kicked off during the 3rd PV Industry Forum, New Strategies for the Booming PV Market, at the 21st European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition (EU PVSEC) in Dresden, Germany.

The PV CYCLE initiative was launched by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) and the German Solar Industry Association (Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft, BSW) to create a permanent international foundation chartered with defining and establishing a solar module take back and recycling system with the active participation of manufacturers and stakeholders.

Through self regulation, the European PV industry plans to define a robust program for the PV product life cycle and avoid political solutions imposed by Brussels. Today, the PV industry enjoys exceptions from the European Union (EU) Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directives, but these exemptions will be reviewed in 2007. See Implications of EU environmental legislation for PV for an overview of the issues, recycling efforts, and design for recycling techniques.

PV CYCLE has outlined further objectives to gather and publish EHS data regarding environmentally sustainable production, encourage global cooperation, and act as a consultancy on EHS and waste treatment issues to regulators and governments worldwide. The module take back program will focus on Europe first with ambitions for an international program later.

A few companies have been proactive leaders on PV module take back and recycling issues.

First Solar, LLC, a manufacturer of CdTe (Cadmium Telluride) thin film PV modules, pioneered a model fund to cover the estimated future costs of reclaiming and recycling First Solar modules at their end of life. Managed by a major international insurance company, the fund covers transporting retired First Solar modules to a recycling center and recycling them into new products.

SolarWorld AG (FRA:SWV) has lead by example with a SolarWorld module take back program and research, development, and capacity investments in silicon and module recycling. Deutsche Solar AG, a SolarWorld AG subsidiary, has a business unit, SolarMaterial, dedicated to solar module, silicon solar cell, and silicon waste recycling. Per business unit manager Dr. Karsten Wambach, SolarMaterial will offer their services for PV module recycling to external customers beginning in the fourth quarter 2006. Two technical papers provide details on SolarMaterial’s solar cell and module recycling efforts:

Beyond business considerations, the PV industry is motivated by industrial social responsibility and sustainability concerns to green stakeholders and political supporters. In a sustainable world, the value chain concept is obsolete; companies and industries need to think and plan for the value cycle where recycling closes the value loop.

A follow up meeting for the expected constitution of Foundation PV CYCLE is tentatively planned in Berlin on November 6, 2006. If you are PV value cycle manufacturer, importer, or supplier or an EHS stakeholder, I suggest you contact EPIA at and get involved pronto.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Solarvalue AG goes Open Market, Tender offer accepted, and Letter of Intent

Solarvalue AG ( shares (XETRA:SV7) were listed last week on the Open Market at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and began trading on September 19, 2006. The Open Market is a rough equivalent to Over-the-counter (OTC) equity markets in the United States, also known as the “Pink Sheets”.

Per a press release dated the same day, Solarvalue reported the supervisory board of Holding Slovenske elektrarne (HSE) has approved the sale of their controlling 90.78% stake in TDR – Metalurgija, Ruše, Slovenia, to a joint venture between Solarvalue Productions d.d., a wholly owned Slovenian subsidiary of Solarvalue, and a Slovenian partner, presumably W&P Profil Maribor.

“Subject to ministerial approval, and finalisation of contracts, we could begin in November with refurbishment for the production of solar silicon,” said Chief Executive Officer Claudia Boehringer.

While the transaction amount remains undisclosed, Solarvalue has tipped aggressive plans to upgrade the facility and produce up to 2,000 metric tons of solar grade silicon from metallurgical grade silicon in 2007.

An undisclosed European photovoltaic group has signed a letter of intent to acquire a stake in Solarvalue Productions d.d. to secure additional supplies of solar grade silicon for their production.

I admit to being surprised by Solarvalue’s quick listing on the Open Market, but I am not an expert on German financial markets and I assume this will help them to line up additional capital and investors. Solarvalue still plans a traditional IPO on a major stock exchange when they achieve their solar grade silicon production targets.

Solarvalue has made progress on the acquisition of TDR – Metalurgija, but they still need regulatory approval and to finalize the contract. I trust Solarvalue will negotiate a competitive, long term electricity contract with HSE, Slovenia’s largest electric power provider; silicon production is an energy intensive process.

Of course, I am very curious to learn the identity of the mysterious European photovoltaic group.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Final NJCEP 2006 Budget and September 2006 CORE Queue Greater Than 10 kWp Solar Rebate Applications

First, on September 14, 2006, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) approved the final NJCEP 2006 Budget allocating an additional $48.5 million for new commitments to the CORE Queue GT (Greater Than) 10kW for Private Sector Installations. However, the new funding is not reflected in this queue release.

I decided to take a closer look at the September 15, 2006, release of the CORE (Customer On-site Renewable Energy) Rebate Commitment Queue GT 10 kW thinking this would be a simple exercise. My initial impression that the queue was being maintained in a cumulative fashion was wrong. About 109 solar rebate applications were removed from the queue versus the last release on May 3, 2006. I believe these applications were either withdrawn or resized per a CORE policy capping rebates to the first 10kWp of system capacity for residential single family homes. Per a note at the header of the CORE Queue, once resized, the solar rebate applications were moved to the CORE Queue LT (Less Than) 10kW.

As a result, the total number of solar rebate applications in the September 15, 2006, CORE Queue GT 10kW is 199, down from 306 in the May 3, 2006, release. Only five (5) applications in the queue have been approved: GT10PVT-0002, GT10PVT-0003, GT10PVT-0018, GT10PVT-0019, and GT10PVT-0031. Although these rebates were approved in November 2005 and January 2006, the approvals were not indicated in the May 3, 2006, version of the CORE Queue.

Thirteen (13) new applications were added to the end of the queue. Two applications of mysterious origin were inserted earlier into the queue: GT10PVT-0031 and GT10PVT-0236A. I can only guess these applications were corrections or reclassifications. Three (3) additional applications were cancelled, and twenty-four (24) applications were denied.

I decided to postpone a more rigorous analysis of this CORE Queue until the new funding is allocated in the next CORE Queue release.

And one can in fact subscribe to New Jersey's Clean Energy Program™ (NJCEP) Newsletter for information on NJCEP programs, news, and website updates. Unfortunately, the last newsletter posted on the website appears to be from February 2006 so I can't confirm if a newsletter was issued in September 2006.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

NJCEP August / September 2006 CORE Program and Queue Updates

There have been a number of updates on New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program™ (NJCEP, website over the past month.

CORE ACTIVITY through August 23, 2006, can be viewed here. In 2006, there have been 789 New Jersey Solar Installation Projects through August 23, 2006, for 12532.2 kWp of system capacity and about $55.7 million in Solar Rebates were approved and issued (including Check Requests Pending Payment). Through August 23, 2006, solar installations have grown over 60% and the system capacity installed in kWp has increased by a factor of almost 2.3 times versus 2005. The 2006 quarterly detail on Solar Program rebates and SREC trading can also be viewed in the New Jersey Solar Market Update September 2006.

A Customer On-site Renewable Energy (CORE) Program Update was released on August 17, 2006. At the August 16, 2006, Board Agenda Meeting, the NJ BPU Board approved the following rebate levels effective September 1, 2006. Private Sector rebates were reduced from 12.6% to 16.7% for systems less than 10kWp to 100kWp respectively. For example, Private Sector Solar PV Application rebates for systems less than 10kWp in size were reduced to $3.80 per Watt from $4.35 per Watt. Public and Non-profit Sector rebates were reduced 14.6% to 20% for systems less than 10kWp to 100kWp respectively. Rebates for systems larger than 100kWp were reduced from 19.6% to 39.7% for Private, Public, and Non-profit sectors. In addition, the previous 100kWp to 700kWp rebate band was split into two bands: 100kWp to 500kWp and 500kWp to 700kWp. The revised CORE Rebate Schedule will be in effect for all complete applications received by the CORE processing staff on or after September 1, 2006.

CORE Queue <=10kw Sept 15, 2006 and CORE Queue > 10kw Sept 15, 2006 updates were released sometime this week. Each queue is being maintained in a cumulative fashion; all applications are included since the queues were first released earlier in 2006. I plan to post a detailed market analysis of both CORE Queues in future posts.

An NJ Solar Transition White Paper, Underwriting Solar Investments In New Jersey: Achieving Scale In An RPS-Dominated Environment, was released with a preface, Roundtable Discussion: New Jersey’s Solar REC Market – Where it’s been, Where it’s going, Why it’s Important, for The 2006 New Jersey Clean Energy Conference and Leadership Awards held on September 18, 2006. The basic gist of this white paper concerns transitioning the NJCEP CORE Program from rebates and grants to a sustainable Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) market based financing program. I still need to read this white paper, but, if a successful program can be crafted, this could be an alternative to the German Renewable Energy Law (EEG) approach more compatible with American style business and government.

While I appreciate the resource, I wish the NJCEP website supported RSS or offered an email subscription so folks were automatically notified of website updates.

Monday, September 18, 2006

3rd PV Industry Forum at the EU PVSEC: Cost, Cost, Cost and Price / Politics

Please see Renewable Energy Access ( ) for the final, professional version of this article. Here is the extended version.

Reflecting on the 21st European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition (EU PVSEC) in Dresden, Germany, the 3rd PV Industry Forum, New Strategies for the Booming PV Market, was the major event upstaging the technical conference presentations on Wednesday, September 6, 2006. PV industry insider views diverged on worldwide PV market growth with forecasts ranging from 5.5GW (GigaWatts) to 11GW of annual installation capacity by 2010 from about 1.4GW in 2005. This divergence on PV market growth was driven by continued concerns about silicon feedstock supplies and PV industry reliance on political renewable energy policy incentives and subsidy programs.

The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) established the PV Industry Forum as a platform to discuss industry related issues. PV Industry and Political/Strategic view points were presented on key topics such as PV Market Development and Industry Competitiveness. Each theme was chaired by industry leaders, and a moderated debate on the viewpoints with attendee participation was facilitated by Ranga Yogeshwar, WDR, Radio & TV, Germany.

Dr. Winfried Hoffmann, President of EPIA and general manager of SCHOTT Solar GmbH, reviewed the state of the PV industry and provided the conservative EPIA PV market forecast of 5.5GW by 2010 and another 5-10 years to reach grid price parity in sun rich Southern Europe.

On the silicon feedstock front, Dr. Hubert Aulich, CEO of PV Silicon AG, analyzed silicon feedstock availability for photovoltaic and semiconductor industries until 2010 and concluded an additional 35,000 metric tons of silicon feedstock production capacity, beyond all the recent announcements, is required to fuel 35% annual PV market growth.

Cost, Cost, Cost was the mantra of German PV market leaders Q-Cells (FRA:QCE) and Deutsche Solar (a subsidiary of SolarWorld (FRA:SWV) ). Both companies recognize the importance of driving down costs for crystalline silicon technologies to achieve grid electricity rate parity and position the PV industry for long term growth.

Deutsche Solar COO Boris Klebensberger said, “It’s not a question of growth – it’s a question of COST!” Deutsche Solar forecasts a worldwide PV market of 10GW by 2010: 8GW for crystalline silicon products and a possible 2GW for thin films with the refrain “Now or Never”. Mr. Klebensberger predicted increasing economies of scale as PV factories evolve from 100MWp production today to 250MWp and even 1GWp by 2010 and beyond as Big Players dominate the industry.

Q-Cells AG co-founder and CEO Anton Milner also emphasized the rapid cost reduction of photovoltaics to lower the Euros (€) per Watt cost. Mr. Milner believes the supply side will correct in 2008-9 as more silicon feedstock becomes available to close the demand gap, but the underlying demand in 2010 is unclear with 80 to 90% of PV installations dependent on government feed-in tariffs or subsidies. However, Mr. Milner thought the PV market in 2010 could be as large as 11GW! Mr. Milner said multicrystalline silicon (mc-Si) has the potential for cost reductions of 40-50%, and thin film technologies such as CSG Solar’s microcrystalline silicon will not become mainstream before 2010. Looking beyond the silicon situation, Mr. Milner believes educated and trained people will become a medium and long term bottleneck for PV industry growth.

In response to a question about lower solar module prices in 2007, Mr. Klebensberger said, “No Idea, but most probably. Prices are made by the Market and nothing else.” Dr. Karin Freier, German Federal Ministry for the Environment, expressed concerns regarding Mr. Klebensberger’s glib statement underscoring the fragile relationship between PV companies and politicians. While Germany is committed to renewable energy sources for electricity generation and is investing in renewable industries as a growth and job creation engine, politicians may become fickle about high PV industry margins and profits and consider accelerating the feed-In tariff digression to jostle the PV industry on pricing.

Given EPIA’s track record of underestimating PV market growth, I give the forecast edge to a 10GW market by 2010 if there is sufficient silicon, favorable renewable energy policies, and 40% cost reductions resulting in lower solar module pricing. I believe the PV industry is poised to continue fast growth but not at a constant rate; there will be periods of greater than trend growth and slower periods of supply correction to match demand. I expect sharp, downward price corrections at the module level in the 2008-9 timeframe as idle cell, wafer, and module capacity and new production facilities are supplied with new silicon feedstock. Contract silicon pricing and increasing economies of scale will return the PV industry to the historical cost curve making up for lost time between 2005 and 2007.

Conference Highlights from 21st European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition

In the EU PVSEC conference closing session, Dr. Heinz Ossenbrink, Technical Programme Chair and Renewable Energies Unit Head, European Commission, Directorate-General Joint Research Centre (DG JRC), Ispra, Italy, presented a twelve slide summary of key conference highlights by topic number, distributed to attendees as a handout.

Here is the summary by Dr. Ossenbrink with a few typo corrections.

260 Plenaries/Orals and 840 Posters

Fundamentals and Novel Devices 203
Crystalline Silicon 302
Amorphous Silicon 76
CIS and CdTe 100
PV Modules and Components 170
PV Systems and Building Integration 101
PV Deployment 124
Industry and Commerce 39

(PIE chart not reproduced)

1 Fundamentals, New Devices and Materials

  • Si tandem concepts. Variation of bandgap by the size of Si quantum dots (5nm..2nm 1.3..1.7 eV), Exitonic cell design proof on concept by 2008 (Green, UNSW, AU)
  • Nanostructured dye-sensitized cells on stainless steel sheets: 4.3% (HUT)
  • Concentrators: Increasing Industry interest (Sharp etc.)
  • New Institute for Concentrating PV in Spain; to install 3MW of Concentrators; tender deadline TODAY
  • DoD Programme on future generation cells; including nano-/biotechnology: Competition approach (Barnett)

2 Crystalline Silicon Solar Cells and Materials

  • 20% MCz modules with SiO back surface <6g/wp
  • Improved screen printed contacts for 18.4% 150x150 cells, target 20% (SolarWorld)
  • CSG cells 7.3% on 1.4 m2, invitation for key R&D topics
  • General: technologies for 6..7g/W vs. 10..12 g/W today
2 Crystalline Silicon Solar Cells and Materials (2)

  • Poly-thin film directly on glass, e-beam (non-UHV) degradation, ready for pilot line: 10% in reach (UNSW)
  • Rear Side Passivated High efficiency Si Cell (FhG-ISE) 21.7%, 4cm2
  • Ultra-thin substrates 17.3%, 100um, 9g/Wp (IMEC)
  • Thin Film epitaxi on low-cost substrate, porous reflector 13.8% (IMEC)
  • Solutions for B-O degradation recovery? (Uni Konstanz)

3 Amorphous and Microcrystalline Silicon

  • Triple-junction a-Si/uc-Si/uc-Si 11.1% 64cm2 (IPV Juelich)
  • 3rd gen triple-junction, OEM to roofing industry, only 0.74%/yr degradation, superior performance ratio (UniSolar)
  • a-Si/uC 13.5% pn 90x45 cm2, single chamber process, work on 3-stack in progress (KANEKA, JP)
  • Single-J a-Si 8.8% on 1.25 x 1.1 m2 ready for production, next step: micromorph improve from 9.5% (Oerlikon, ex-UNAXIS)

4 CIS, CdTe and Other (II-V) Thin Film Cells

Industrial CIS reaches 100MW production end of 2007

  • <1€/W and 14% envisioned (Wuerth)
  • AVANCIS, 12.4% 60X90cm2, Survives 4000h DH very well (~50yrs lifetime)
  • 20MW plant in preparation (Saint-Gobain / Shell Solar)
  • Sequential CIS process on Cu-Foil 125 x 65 cm2 start-up (SulfurCell)
  • CdS/CdTe 15MW factory near Milan, planned 60 x 120 cm2 (ARENDI / Uni Parma)
  • Flexible CdTe/CdS Foils, 14% R2R on Polyamide substrate announced 1.5MW Pilotplant (Loughborough / ETH Zurich)

5 PV Modules ad Components of PV Systems

  • Efficiency and Energy delivery gain of 4% by AR-coating on Modules (BP Solar)
  • Modeling of a PV Grid-connected system with Ultracapacitors promises more than 5% gain in Energy delivery (ETSI, ES)
  • Module integrated 3-phase inverter (<0.3€/W) for high-voltage TF modules (ISET, DE)

5 PV Modules ad Components of PV Systems (2)

  • Electroluminescence crack detection (Evergreen)
  • Recycling of the 23yr old 300kW Pellworm plant: 50% of all cells recovered and reinstalled in Freiberg @ 12-14%
  • 480W FLATCON concentrator system 26.2% module efficiency, 35% cell efficiency @ 500x
  • Traceability in Calibration Chain: Module Power Values become much more to be trusted (JRC Ispra)

6 PV Systems in Grid-Connected Applications

  • Professional Monitoring Services for Modules and Systems: SPYCE (Enecolo, CH)
  • European Commission funded project PERFORMANCE, new and harmonized approach to Systems monitoring (UK, PL, DE, EC-JRC)
  • Very Large PV Systems in the Desert (TUAT JP, Ben Gurion, IL)

7 Global Aspects of PV Solar Electricity

  • A very good, and probably conservative outlook for the PV Business development, focusing on Challenges ahead (Sarasin)
  • Italian PV programme: almost 400MW authorised to be on grid within 12 months (ENEA & GRTN, IT)
  • Outlook onto the European PV RTD and Demonstration programme
  • Greece: Generous Feed-In Law in place, 40MW approved
  • China: Olympics 2008; Shanghai 100000 roof programme, 2010 1.5GW production

8 PV Industry Forum

  • Very high participation
  • Good and professional moderation by Mr. Yogeshwar
  • Addressing top issues of today and tomorrow,
    • Silicon Feedstock Availability, will be ever enough?
    • PV-Cycle: Industry-driven concept for Re-cycling and waste treatment along the whole value chain addresses large waste streams in Production and end-of-Life Arrays (EPIA)

Overall Summary on the Programme

  • R&D and Industry getting closer:
    • Technical topics 2,3,4,5 industry (co-) authors in more than 2/3 of contributions
    • Clear and detailed requests from Industry to R&D
    • Technology transfer process speeds up
  • For R&D in improvement and new technologies, Si shortage seems to be the driver
  • Overall: Deliver More GW with less grams Silicon per Watt
  • Globally, Number of Regions with PV-favouring policies increase

I had a “German” moment on the last day of the conference when the front entrance to MESSE DRESDEN was locked until 8:00 AM sharp. On previous days, the entrance was open much earlier. In addition to myself, Dr. Joachim Luther from Fraunhofer ISE was among the attendees affected by the lookout. I was glad I did not arrive earlier to use the Press room as I had planned.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Closing Session at 21st European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition

September 8, 2006, was the final day of the 21st European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition. To my surprise, the exhibition portion of the 21st EU PVSEC finished on Thursday evening, and the stand teardown began with immediate haste. I would estimate the attendance for the final session on Friday dwindled down to about 500 to 600 attendees.

Hans-Josef Fell, member of the German Parliament and winner of the John C. Bonda Award on Wednesday, gave the keynote address and linked global poverty, climate change, and energy security issues as problems to be solved together, not separately. Mr. Fell posited “Solar Energy is the Freedom Energy” and suggested leadership by example with developed countries adopting renewables and PV was the best way to counter veiled nuclear ambitions in Iran and other developing countries.

Dr. Heinz Ossenbrink, the Technical Programme Chairman, presented 12 summary slides on the Conference highlights. There were 260 Plenaries/Oral and 840 Posters/Visual presentations. A handout for this summary was provided, but I am trying to get an electronic version. Either way, I will publish this summary in a follow up post.

The final official numbers for the EU PVSEC were reviewed. There were 2649 delegates from 95 countries; Germany 38%, USA 9%, Japan 5%, Spain/Netherlands/France 4% were the top 5. 382 exhibitors from 29 countries packed the 1.6 Hectares at MESSE DRESDEN; Germany 57%, China 7%, USA 7%, Spain/Italy 4% were the top 5 exhibiting countries. I believe Asia and Japan were under represented at the exhibition.

Poster Awards were presented for the best visual presentation in each of the eight conference topics. Technical, presentation, and an academic viewpoint were considered in the subjective judging of the posters. Here are the reference numbers and titles of the poster winners. Please check the Conference Programme for Visual presentations below for more details about author(s) and sponsoring companies or organizations.

1AV.2.45 The Day4TM Electrode - A New Metallization Approach Towards Higher Solar Cell and Module Efficiencies

2CV.4.61 Precipitates and Inclusions in Block-Cast Silicon - Isolation and Electrical Characterization

3DV.3.42 High Efficiency Amorphous Silicon Single-Junction p-i-n Solar Cells and Modules Prepared in Industrial KAITM M R&D Reactor

4BV.4.52 Fabrication of Flexible CIGS Cell on Stainless Steel Substrate by Co-Evaporation Process

5BV.3.39 Effective Efficiency and Performance Ratio as Energy Rating System for PV Modules

6CV.2.18 Irradiance Maps Applied for the Performance Assessment of PV-Systems - A Case Study for the German Federal State of Saxony

7BV.5.31 Autonomous Photovoltaic Milk Cooling and Ice Making Systems for Commercial Use

8DV.6.16 Effects of Upscaling from Pilot Plant to Mass Production Life Cycle Assessment for PV Modules

The 22nd EU PVSEC will be held in September 2007 in Bologna, Milan (Milano), or Lisbon (Lisboa).The EU PVSEC Conference Programme can be found online here; there is a separate PDF file for each day: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Visual presentations are at Monday – Tuesday and Wednesday – Thursday.

The Conference Proceedings on CD-ROM have been promised for delivery by the end of October (yes, they did say this October, 2006). If you are like me and can’t wait, use the conference program and check the company, research institution (example: Fraunhofer ISE), or organization websites directly or email the presenter, usually the first name on a co-authored paper. I don’t understand why the presentations can’t be placed on a server for download by attendees at the end of each day. Even if tweaked to the last minute, each presentation must be submitted to the conference audio/visual team in electronic form. This IS the twenty-first century and the Internet 2.0 age.

Of course, a double standard exists for this blog, and tardy posts such as this one are acceptable.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

More light flashes from the 21st European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition

The exhibition at the this year’s EU PVSEC covers an area of 1.5 hectares (3.46 acres) including a wide range of PV manufacturing equipment (PV tooling) vendors. This may be the largest collection of PV tooling vendors at one location ever, and most of the PV tooling vendors have sample equipment operating in demonstration modes. If you are equipping a new factory or upgrading an existing line, the exhibition is a one stop shop for all your needs from ingot furnaces or Czochralski pullers to fully automated cell and module production lines. With PV equipment manufacturers, “turnkey” is the popular, must have buzzword to entice new and R&D challenged manufacturers to equip production facilities.

After the Monday press conference, I had a chance to ask Dr. Winfred Hoffmann some questions about the Schott Solar’s EFG (Edge-defined Film-fed Growth) technology. EFG is a process for pulling an octagonal tube from molten silicon and was the precursor to Evergreen Solar’s string ribbon technology. Schott Solar has approximately 40MWp of EFG-cell capacity, but production expansion is limited by the availability of a special, flowable silicon feedstock single sourced from a fluidized bed reactor process at MEMC (NYSE:WFR). I would expect to hear plans from Schott Solar about EFG capacity expansions coming on line in late 2007 or early 2008 as more silicon feedstock becomes available.

I learned of a Russian vendor for III-V solar cells during my research for a feature post on the compound semiconductor value chain. Saturn Joint Stock Company (Saturn JSC) is based in Krasnodar, Russia, and recently purchased an MOCVD reactor from AIXTRON AG (NASDAQ:AIXG) for the mass production of III-V solar cells. AIXTRON is a notable PV equipment vendor not present at the EU PVSEC Exhibition.

Spectrolab (NYSE:BA) had a poster presentation with details regarding III-V terrestrial solar cell products with roughly square footprints. There are two versions; CD0-100 and CD0-225 are 1 and 2.25 square centimeters in size respectively. If I can get the data sheets, I will write a post regarding their specifications.

I was able to confirm the obvious, and Concentrix is in fact using RWE Space Solar as the primary vendor for their III-V solar cells. Spectrolab is being considered or qualified as a backup supplier.

With about 90% market share, Umicore (EBR:UMI) is the market maker in Germanium (Ge) substrate wafers for compound semiconductors like III-V solar cells. Four (4) inch wafers dominate the market today, and each 4 inch wafer requires about 6-7 grams of Germanium with typical thicknesses of 140-180um. Germanium wafers are available as thin as 100um driven by weight constraints for space applications.

Two oral presentations by First Solar were cancelled on Tuesday; one was to be confirmed so there may not have been any conspiratorial intrigue involved.

Also, I am happy to report the bratwurst gap at EU PVSEC was closed on Tuesday when a sausage stand was brought into the courtyard to mitigate the crazy lunch lines created by 2,500 plus attendees. Much work is still needed to improve the lunch time service efficiency, and a major capacity expansion may be announced for 2007.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Light flashes from the 21st European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition

Dresden is awash in the brilliance of 2,500 Photovoltaic experts from 93 countries. In the opening session, there were predictions and insights from industry leaders and German politicians. I will only cover a few highlights.

Although new silicon feedstocks are coming online in 2008, Dr. Winfried Hoffman, Schott Solar, predicted silicon based solar panels would not resume decreasing in price along the traditional minus 5% per Watt pro year learning curve until 2010.

Setsuo Iuchi from Japan’s Policy Planning Director of Energy Conservation
and Renewable Energy Department of METI predicted PV solar pricing per watt over the next 24 years: 30 yen/watt in 2007(silicon), 23 yen/watt in 2010 (amorphous-silicon), 14 yen/watt in 2020 (not silicon or compound semiconductors), and 7 yen/watt by 2030.

Hermann Scheer, Member of the German Parliament, tipped refinements to the groundbreaking German Renewable Energy Feed-In-Tariff Law (EEG) he authored. Dr. Scheer believes that centralized power stations as the backbone reserve of renewable energy technologies need a paradigm shift to overcome the remaining counterarguments to renewable energy. First, he advocates financial incentives to encourage decentralized energy storage; it was unclear if existing battery technologies would be included. Second, Dr. Scheer would like to legislate “time windows” to electricity rates so peak power generated at peak usage hours by solar electric systems receive the highest feed in tariff rates. Dr. Scheer’s latest book, “Energy Autonomy. A New Policy for Renewable Energy”, will be available in english later this year.

Dr. Richard Swanson, founder and CEO of SunPower, was awarded the 14th Becquerel Prize.

At the afternoon press conference, I asked the Opening Session panel about the possibility of an oversupply of solar panels after 2008 as all the silicon feedstock and solar cell and module production capacity, both silicon and thin film, comes online. The possibility was dismissed out of hand. While my question may have been misunderstood, even the fastest growing markets have periods of slower growth and imbalances in supply and demand. Right now, the industry is obsessed with the silicon feedstock undersupply situation and its constraint on solar module production. Much like other high growth markets, DRAM semiconductors for example, there is a risk that solar cell and module production quickly switches to an oversupply versus demand situation in the 2009 to 2010 timeframe. I will consider doing a follow up survey of announced silicon feedstock production expansions and solar cell and module production capacity to develop a quantitative basis for this assertion.

Two developments could prevent an oversupply situation in the next few years.
1) Silicon solar modules fall below $2.50 per Watt to achieve rough grid parity
2) The United States passes sweeping Renewable Energy legislation similar to the German EEG model. Unless this happens, the US market will be held captive by state solar electric rebate programs that are inherently capped and subject to politics at each refunding.

Also, this conference is a who’s who of the photovoltaic community. Care is recommended when fighting the crowd of 2,500 reaching for that coffee during the rest breaks. That person you just elbowed might be a CEO or a prominent PV research professor.

Friday, September 01, 2006

SolFocus deal with Boeing(Spectrolab) and AMAT Solar Webcast Event

Although I peruse the solar photovoltaic headlines daily, I didn’t catch the importance of this Boeing (NYSE:BA) press release from the headline, Boeing Wins Contract to Build Solar Cells for Renewable Energy, until it was pointed out to me. SolFocus has entered into a 12-month contract with Boeing’s Spectrolab subsidiary for 600,000 Multijunction concentrator solar cells, sufficient for 10MWp of Concentrator PhotoVoltaic (CPV) panel production. If the SolFocus Gen1 CPV panels indeed have 16 mini-dishes, this is enough solar cells to produce about 37,500 panels.

There have been a number of recent articles (The San Francisco Chronicle, Forbes) about Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT) and their push into solar production tools. However, I only saw this ''Applied Materials Going Solar'' Webcast Event reported in the EETimes Water cooler on August 26, 2006 as Here comes the sun. AMAT will be discussing their Solar plans on Tuesday, September 5, 2006, at 10:00 a.m. EDT (7:00 a.m. PDT). I am wondering if this will be a simultaneous webcast from Santa Clara and the 21st European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition (EU PVSEC) in Dresden, Germany. AMAT is an exhibitor at the EU PVSEC, and I would expect many of their solar experts to be in attendance. I will be attending this year’s EU PVSEC, and I hope to see you in Dresden.