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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Moser Baer PV invests in Solarvalue AG

I just happened to the see the news when I checked my email. For now, I want to point out my prediction about a possible partnership with Moser Baer in Solarvalue discusses plans and process. I haven't been doing well on the speculation/prediction front in recent posts. Here is a link to the press release, Solarvalue AG and Moser Baer PV Announce Partnership (Deutsch).

This explains the run up in the Solarvalue shares in advance of the announcement. It also explains the renewed interest of W&P Profil in metallurgical silicon production with M5 per Solarvalue: What ever happened to the M5 arc furnace?

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Solarvalue: What ever happened to the M5 arc furnace?

I haven’t written a post about Solarvalue AG (XETRA:SV7) since Solar Grade Silicon roads lead to Ruše - Part 3.

I was sort of boycotting them after Solarvalue Newsletter 1/2007, and the past two press releases were a bit more hype than substance:

Solarvalue Site in Slovenia Takes up Engineering Work in Preparation of Solar Silicon Production
Solar grade silicon produced from metallurgic silicon - Solarvalue AG presents process at Photovoltaic Technology Show 2007

I did get to speak with Solarvalue’s Investor Relations contact, Maximilian Fischer, on Wednesday, March 14, 2007. While we had a nice chat, there was no post worthy, actionable information. Mr. Fischer verified the new arrangement with W&P Profil regarding the TDR facility was in effect a sale lease back type deal.

In Solar Grade Silicon roads lead to Ruše - Part 3, I speculated about the abrupt switch to the M6 arc furnace by Solarvalue:

I suspect there must be a major or catastrophic issue with the M5 arc furnace for a plan that requires a bearing assembly to be installed on M6.

In truth, I verified the following information with an independent, confidential source. The M5 arc furnace is back in operation producing calcium silicon (CaSi 30) for W&P Profil. But it is possible M5 will be producing metalurgical grade silicon in 1-2 months. I will leave the speculation on this news to the readers of this Blog.

What is up with the Solarvalue stock shares? It looks like the volume has dropped since the stock shot up from about 11 to 20 per share between March 5 and March 13, 2007. Will this stock price hold up when Solarvalue discloses financials for the year 2006 =in the first quarter of 2007=. I am surprised folks are bidding up the shares before Solarvalue obtains investment capital to finish equipping the Solar Grade Silicon (SGS) production facility at TDR in Ruše, Slovenia.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Applied Materials Solar shuts out Oerlikon Solar 3:0

Applied Materials builds thin film photovoltaic production equipment lead in the first quarter of 2007

In advance of the PHOTON Expo, I was expecting new polysilicon production facility and supplier agreements to lead the photovoltaic headlines. But the real news may be on the production equipment front.

Since the Solar division of OC Oerlikon Corporation AG (VTX:OERL) won this CHF 320 million order from Saudi investor backed German API GmbH, Applied Materials, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMAT) has been on the thin film photovoltaic offensive.

Things got rolling on February 7, 2007, with Applied Materials Names Winfried Hoffmann Chief Technology Officer of Solar Business Group. Given his tenure at SCHOTT Solar GmbH, Dr. Hoffman was in a unique position to evaluate production equipment offerings from both Oerlikon, which equipped the SCHOTT thin film plant in Jena, Germany, and Applied Materials. Since both companies have offices in Alzenau, Germany, I hope Dr. Hoffmann does not on occasion drive to SCHOTT Solar by accident out of habit.

With Applied Materials Selected by Moser Baer to Deliver World's First Gen 8.5 Thin Film Solar Production Line, Applied Materials has changed the playing field for Oerlikon:

Applied’s Gen 8.5 Line is designed for flexibility because production output can be configured for final product sizes from 1.4m2 to 5.7m2. Current thin film production lines are configured for panel sizes limited to dimensions less than 1.5m2.

So far, Oerlikon’s amorphous silicon thin film production solution permits the production of any size panel, as long as it is 1.4 square meters in size. Since these low efficiency panels are well suited for BIPV (Building Integrated PhotoVoltaics) applications, architects love the flexibility of one size fits all glass solar panels – NOT! No doubt this is why Oerlikon customer ErSol CEO Claus Beneking was seen spending lots of time visiting the Applied Materials booth at Solar Power 2006. Oerlikon recognizes this deficiency and decided to make an acquisition to correct this:

In order to also cover the process step of laser scribing with its own technology and equipment, Oerlikon acquired the English company Exitech a few days ago (see press release of December 5, 2006). Laser scribing is the key step of subdividing the coated glass surface into individual solar cells and configuring them in a functional module.

In the last score, T-Solar Global S.A. of Spain has also purchased a Gen 8.5 thin film production line per Applied Materials to Deliver Europe's First Production Line for Manufacturing Ultra-Large, Cost-Efficient Solar Panels.

Applied Materials has been leading by renewable energy example with the purchase of 8,220,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean renewable energy per Applied Materials Demonstrates Clean Energy Leadership and Applied Materials Commits to Leading U.S. Solar Power Generation Capability with the installation of over 1.9 megawatts of solar power generation capability at its research campus in Sunnyvale, California.

Special thanks and much success are extended to Dr. Hoffman in his new duties as CTO of Applied Materials Solar division beginning April 2, 2007. Dr. Hoffmann is a tireless Solar Advocate who was willing to talk with and answer questions from a newbie Blogger at EU PVSEC last year.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Solar Charger and Solar Panel Roundup – Part 2

[Las Vegas, Nevada USA]

Charging up 2007 International CES

Continuing where Solar Charger and Solar Panel Roundup – Part 1 left off, there were additional solar surprises from small companies at CES in the Sands Convention Center.

Looking like a secret weapon from a 1960’s vintage James Bond film (the label in the photo has PVM007 as the model name), the SC-PSPS01 Portable Solar Power Station is part of the Onlink Portable Solar Charger series from YII CHERNG INTERNATIONAL LTD. This metal suitcase detaches into two parts: a 20W (Watt) moncrystalline silicon solar panel (product versions go up to 75W) and a base control unit with a plethora of DC and AC charging and powering capabilities.

While the solar panel rapid charges the internal battery in normal operation, an AC input option enables charging from 100-230V 50-60Hz AC sources.

Once charged, the internal battery can power a 100W AC device for up to 2 hours via the integrated inverter. DC power output options include a 12V car battery jack, 5V USB socket or 3/5/6/9V universal 1A (Ampere) maximum DC jack, and an integrated AA and AAA rechargeable battery charger.

Weighing in at 4.2 kilograms (about 9.3 pounds) and sporting an LED light, battery capacity indicator, and overload protection, the SC-PSPS01 delivers on its moniker as The best solution while AC power cannot be reached! This product should appeal to remote maintenance and construction personnel in Telecommunications and, dare I say it, the Oil and Gas industry. YII CHERNG is exhibiting at CeBIT through March 21, 2007, in Hall 20, Stand C42, (B07) at the Taiwanese Pavilion.

At the GP Tech Industrial CO., LTD. stand located in the CES Taiwanese pavilion, I found interesting solar charger designs branded Tachima, Green Power Group. In reality, the SOLAR U and M SERIES appear to be marketed by SolarFocus as the SolarUno and SolarMio as shown in the above photo. In Taiwan, cooperating companies tend to have the same owners or a friends and family type business relationship.

The SolarUno is designed to trickle charge AAA NiCd or NiMh rechargeable batteries or Bluetooth devices (headsets?) and flash based MP3 players over USB through an integrated DC to DC converter. SolarMio specializes in charging a wider range of portable devices through a rear mounted DC to DC converter with internal Lithium Polymer batteries using USB or a 6V DC output. Both devices use trimmed 195mm x 55mm base strips of UNI-SOLAR Triple-Junction thin film solar cells from Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (NASDAQ:ENER) and appear to correlate to the SolarFocus 1SC1 Standard SolarCard.

At the Chinese pavilion, Ningbo Qixin Solar Electrical Appliance Co., Ltd. (not to be confused with Ningbo Solar) offered the widest range of solar products from solar cells and solar lights to solar modules and photovoltaic production equipment including laser scribing machines, laminators, and solar cell and module testers. Per Marketing Manager Lui Xiaobo, the company produced about 2.5MW of solar modules in 2006 and plans to double output to 5MW in 2007.

I haven’t seen much solar product news flow from CeBIT 2007. CeBIT’s online Exhibitors + Products directory is horrible and has sparse product descriptions making search next to useless. It looks as though the CeBIT folks are trying to cash in on Catalogue and CD-ROM sales. I did manage to find a company called Sunload GmbH promoting a new line of solar messenger bags along with solar briefcase, backpack, and carry on luggage product lines. New Sunload products are on display at the CeBIT smartTextiles Village in Hall 9 at Stand C 07.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Post 100 on GUNTHER Portfolio

Thanks to the readers, subscribers, and friends of GUNTHER Portfolio!

With this post, GUNTHER Portfolio has hit the 100 post mark. Since my first post on Tuesday, May 16, 2006, I have averaged about 2.3 posts per week for the past ten (10) months. And that includes periods of one to two weeks without new content. I had ambitious goals for the Blog at the start, but my aspirations have been exceeded. I hope you concur.

The top three (3) most read posts remain as citied in Popular Solar Posts and Searches on GUNTHER Portfolio. In particular, SolFocus vs. Concentrix Solar: Battle of the Solar Concentrator PhotoVoltaic (CPV) start-ups is in need of an update. For example, I first learned from the folks at that RWE Space Solar Power GmbH changed its name to AZUR SPACE Solar Power GmbH.

In 2007, I have tried to broaden the appeal of the Blog to a wider range of readers. I am not sure if this is the correct direction, and I am worried my editorial standards may have declined to maintain and boost visits. As I explore new areas like solar consumer electronics, I recognize the need to keep the polysilicon and technical crowd happy.

I regret my earlier diversion posts, and I will stick to the Photovoltaics, Solar Energy, Energy Policy part of the Blog’s tagline with rare exception. If I am compelled to write a diversionary post, these will find a home on my personal Blog at I encourage German readers to check out the second post, Delete that Photo!, to see if they recognize the obnoxious, mystery woman in the photo. Don’t expect regular or long posts on this second Blog.

Please leave a comment or send me an email about the posts and content you prefer or dislike, and any suggestions you might have for future directions.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Solar Charger and Solar Panel Roundup – Part 1

[Las Vegas, Nevada USA]

Charging up 2007 International CES

With CeBIT 2007 starting this week on Thursday, March 15, in Hannover, Germany, relevance is fading for the final CES post I promised (see Solar Camera defends Solar Gadget Crown) back in January.

The crowded field of solar charger and panel manufacturers at CES this year was lead by ICP Solar Technologies Inc. (OTC:ICPR) and Solar Style Inc, a subsidiary of Universal Communication Systems Inc. (OTC:UCSY).

First, a solar charger consists of a solar panel, a charge controller, and a target battery. The solar panel captures and converts sunlight into electricity, and the charge controller regulates and optimizes the direct current (DC) generated by the panel to charge, but not overcharge, the target battery.

The Sunsei product line from ICP Solar and the sister Coleman branded line of portable solar chargers launched at CES focus on direct trickle charging the primary battery of a car, RV (recreational vehicle), or boat for battery maintenance or battery recharging purposes. I first learned of battery maintenance at a local Volkswagen car dealership. Volkswagen was using small solar panels mounted on the front windshield and plugged into the 12V battery jack or cigarette lighter to prevent idle vehicles on the lot from draining the car battery. Electronics in contemporary cars use small amounts of power even when turned off and parked.

ICP Solar produces amorphous silicon (a-Si) based solar panels at their own production facility located in the United Kingdom. Per a company representative, ICP Solar claims to source polycrystalline solar cells from Q-Cells AG for solar panels such as the 65W (Watt) Sunsei SolarCharger SE-4000, 100W SE-6000, and 130W SE-8000.

By contrast, solar chargers from Solar Style target handheld devices like mobile phones, MP3 players, gaming units, GPS, and notebook computers through a two step process. Solar Style products charge an integrated lithium ion or lithium polymer battery which in turn recharges the target mobile device battery. Solar Style models include chargers like the SC017 (called the SolarolaTM at CES) that have a RAZR-like flip phone form factor with monocrystalline solar cells mounted inside both halves of the clamshell. Similar products are bundled with a range of connector cables for the most popular mobile phone brands.

Solar Style claimed to have two fundamental patents for their Battery On Board approach with lithium polymer batteries and for handheld solar charging devices. I was unable to confirm this claim with a quick Google Patents search for “solar charger battery”. However, this did reveal patents co-invented by ICP Solar CEO Sass Peress and Japanese notables Fuji Photo Film Co., Ltd. and Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd. Mr. Peress solar blogs about Sunbits at sponsored by ICP Solar.

Given the fragile financial condition of Solar Style’s parent company, it’s not surprising they have an arrangement with a competitor (or their manufacturing partner?), AOC Solar, Co., to sell identical products branded AOC Solar and produced at the same Chinese factory. While AOC Solar has an eclectic lineup of solar powered products, their Solar Lighting Complete Kit series attracted my attention.

The Solar Lighting Complete Kits range from 2.5W to 60W and include everything needed to install or experiment with off grid lighting. Kit contents vary with the wattage rating; the 10W Solar Lighting Complete Kit includes a 10W solar module with a built in charge controller, a 7W CFL Lamp, two (2) 0.8W LED Lamps, a 12 Volt / 8AH (Amp-Hour) Battery, and essential accessories including a 10m cable, switch, E27 base for the CFL, and fuse. The 10W Solar Lighting Complete Kit, Model: PVK-SLS-10W, has a Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $241.20 USD.

AOC Solar developed the kits for solar energy education, but they have instead found significant interest from people living off grid without electricity in impoverished nations.

And the s25 server at Site Meter has been bogged down by a particular site with a promotion since last Thursday, so I have been unable to data mine my Blog traffic. I am missing this motivational information.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

GreenVolts Concentrates PhotoVoltaics in San Francisco

Establishes headquarters near SF Financial District

I first heard and reported about GreenVolts at Solar Power 2006, and I met GreenVolts ( CEO Bob Cart at the 19th NREL Industry Growth Forum:

Solar start ups at the 19th NREL Industry Growth Forum Part 1
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger addresses Solar Power 2006

On February 9, 2007, I interviewed Mr. Cart for the inaugural meeting in the main conference room at GreenVolts’ new offices in San Francisco. GreenVolts had just moved into these offices on the same day. The office space was donated by PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG) to GreenVolts as the 2006 Winner of the Renewables Prize at the California Clean Tech Open.

Since the NREL Forum, Mr. Cart has been refining and implementing the GreenVolts strategy, and he said:

During our R&D investment phase, GreenVolts has successfully developed an efficient solar generation system capable of low cost mass manufacture. This was a vital step towards achieving our goal of providing utilities the lowest total cost solar energy solution possible with direct delivery of electricity to their customers over the existing grid.

Under his leadership, GreenVolts has focused on delivering 1 to 20 MW (Megawatt) scale projects generating near load and on the transmission grid while requiring no new transmission lines.

GreenVolts has made steady progress building its core team, developing utility customers, and raising capital to achieve business goals. Bob Cart said the company has moved from SolidWorks models to expensive, one off, physical prototypes. Although I was not allowed to snap a photo, a scale prototype of the High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Off-Axis Microdish was on the conference room table during our discussions. The mirror for this one off prototype cost GreenVolts $20,000 USD to fabricate based on their two exclusive licenses from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Besides the basic microdish, GreenVolts has sought to lower the total cost of installation by leveraging their CarouSOL concept, an array of fourty-four (44) quad microdishes arranged to follow the sun with two axis tracking. Using III-V multijunction (MJC) terrestrial solar cells from Spectrolab, a unit of The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA), and adding 14 quad microdishes to the original design, the system capacity of the CarouSOL has increased to 3.5kW. I saw a video in Bob Cart’s office of a CarouSOL base mechanism prototype in dual tracking operation. As a non traditional tracking approach, the CarouSOL does not require poles set with concrete like SolFocus or Concentrix and can be assembled on site, set on the ground, and secured at lower cost.

Beyond manufacturing and installation, GreenVolts recognizes the importance of operation and maintenance costs to the total cost of system operation. As their products proceed from prototype development to qualification and manufacturing ramp, GreenVolts is partnering with utilities, national labs, and certification bodies to ensure a smooth transition to volume production. Since CarouSOL is located on the utility side of the grid, high power, three phase inverters ranging from 100kW (kilowatt) to 250kW are required to convert the DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current) for power conversion and transmission.

If you look at the GreenVolts’ website, there is page front with a link to the California Clean Tech Open Announces Inaugural Winners and a visitor logon. I expect there will be exciting new developments from GreenVolts in the weeks and months ahead.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Solaria spills low concentration photovoltaic technology at Symposium

But only Piper Jaffrey clients, invited guests, and selected media get the scoop

Solaria disclosed details about their low concentration solar technology during their presentation at Piper Jaffray’s (Piper Jaffray & Co., NYSE:PJC) Second Annual Opportunities in Alternative Energy Symposium (see Solaria presenting at Alternative Energy Symposium).

Thus far, this CNET article, Solaria shines light on high-powered solar panel by Martin LaMonica, is the lone mainstream media report with additional business and trade publications destined to follow. However, on the Solaria core technology, this article disappoints:

Solaria does its concentration using plastic-based optics. A flat plastic casing made out of a proprietary polymer houses the solar cells while amplifying the light.

If you read my post, Solaria Keeps Solar Technology Secret, it seemed clear the solution was polymer based.

Viewed from the side, the solar cells are held atop small, elevated grooves molded into the plastic.

This vague statement raises more questions:
Are the grooves straight, circular, or another pattern?
Does the back or front of the solar cells sit on the elevated grooves?

Solaria, too, originally played with another design, trying to concentrate light as it hit the finished module, rather than within the solar cells.

I don’t think the current solution is concentrating light within the solar cells per se. So the solar cells are encapsulated in a proprietary polymer that is in direct contact with the solar cell minimizing the critical angle of total internal reflection versus an air gap between the flat optics and the solar cells.

The article does not describe the solar cells used in the Solaria solution, but it would appear these are standard size silicon solar cells.

Solaria’s CEO, Suvi Sharma, said the initial product will double the sunlight (two suns) hitting the solar cells, while a 2008 product will triple the sunlight concentration (three suns) on the solar cells. On the cost front, although Mr. Sharma claimed Solaria based modules would use 50 to 60 percent less silicon solar cells than traditional solar modules, Solaria based modules will only have a 15 to 17 percent cost advantage in 2008 until manufacturing volumes ramp.

I requested equal access to the information Solaria presented at the Symposium, but Solaria denied my request.

As I discovered after the 7. Forum Solarpraxis, Solaria was not the sixth unnamed company in the Q-Cells AG presentation at EU PVSEC. Instead this was CIGS thin film solar module company, Solibro AB.