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Monday, April 30, 2007

OptiSolar to solar electrify Sarnia, Ontario Canada

OptiSolar granted approval to build a 40MW (Megawatt) solar farm in Sarnia

In Ontario goes solar, Tyler Hamilton of the Toronto Star first broke this story. I first wrote about OptiSolar in this post, Gen 3 Solar changes name to OptiSolar.

The 40MW Sarnia solar farm is slated to occupy almost 365 hectares (about 902 acres) and will be constructed by OptiSolar, Inc. subsidiary OptiSolar Farms Canada Inc. in four (4) 10MW phases.

The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) has agreed to purchase power from OptiSolar Farms Canada at 42 Canadian cents (convert to USD) per kWh (kilowatt-hour) for 20 years as part of their Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program (RESOP) for Solar PV Energy. The Ontario feed-in tariff was crucial to OptiSolar’s decision to place the solar farm in Sarnia. The OptiSolar Solar PV Contracts were awarded on page 4 of this Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program Quarterly Report Q1 2007 January – March.

Per the Toronto Star, Peter Carrie of OptiSolar Farms would not disclose the cost of the OptiSolar showcase project, although he claimed a 10MW scale photovoltaic installation costs about $70 to 80 million Canadian today. OptiSolar Farms has purchased the required real estate and expects to begin construction in 2008 leveraging local contractors. All four phases should be installed and operational by 2010.

OptiSolar has not yet announced thin film amorphous silicon (a-Si) solar module or solar panel products. So how did OptiSolar land this deal without launching a product? Perhaps there wasn’t much competition for the award? I was unaware of this generous Ontario solar electric feed-in tariff. A number of OptiSolar’s Board of Directors have Canadian connections. Co-founders Randy Goldstein and Phil Rettger also co-founded OPTI Canada Inc. (TSE:OPC) and have a track record of successful process development while Geoff Cumming, Chairman of the Board, may have lined up the financing for the estimated $280 million Canadian project.

It appears the expanded OptiSolar Hayward, California USA facility is sufficient for up to 100MW of annual manufacturing capacity using the ErSol Thin Film module production plant as a rough benchmark. But, as I learned at the Intersolar 2006 PV Industry Forum, glass is a major material cost for thin film module production. SCHOTT Solar is building their 30MW thin film amorphous silicon (a-Si) solar module facility near one of their glass factories in Jena, Germany. And Shell Solar decided to partner with glass processing leader Saint-Gobain to form the AVANCIS joint venture to develop and produce CIS solar modules. Although there may be a local glass source for OptiSolar, I had an inspiring idea. Perhaps OptiSolar has plans to expand future production in Ontario, Canada, or Detroit, Michigan USA. Each of these areas have been impacted by the struggling American auto makers, and I believe they have all of the required raw material infrastructure already in place. Economic incentives are bound to be available as demonstrated by Pennsylvania luring AE Polysilicon to the Keystone state.

While OptiSolar appears to have plans that span the PV value chain targeting large scale photovoltaic power plants, Peter Carrie said:

…the goal in Ontario is to showcase OptiSolar's technology and demonstrate its performance, while at the same time generating revenues from electricity production.

This leaves OptiSolar’s business model unclear. Is full vertical integration their end goal or are they proving their prowess as a solar solution systems provider?

In Canada, critics claim the renewable energy projects approved in Ontario are a smoke screen to cover the government's focus on nuclear and coal based electricity generation.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Solaria Supercell Revisited

Stellaris claims the grainy diagram as copyrighted material.

First, a correction to the post, Moser Baer PV reveals Solaria Supercell, is required. Stellaris has claimed the grainy diagram I extracted from the joint press conference presentation by Solarvalue AG (XETRA:SV7) and Moser Baer Photo Voltaic Limited (MBPV). It would appear this diagram and the Concentrix Solar diagram on page 11 were added to the presentation as industry examples or in error.

So this diagram is not related to the Solaria Supercell solar panel photo. While not much detail is discernable from the Supercell photo, this does answer some key questions articulated in Solaria Keeps Solar Technology Secret and provides a photo reference to accompany Martin LaMonica’s description in Solaria shines light on high-powered solar panel.

Standard sized silicon solar cells are not used with the Supercell. Strips of what appear to be a thick photovoltaic material are inserted in the transparent polymer and arrayed at a slight angle relative to the top of the panel. This arrangement seems to look like a slightly closed Venetian blind and implies there is one correct way to orient the panel to face the sun at installation time.

Zooming in on the photo, it is now possible to understand what Mr. LaMonica meant when he said,

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

It is possible to see the cells rest on top of a polymer like substrate. Also, two bands can be seen perpendicular to the solar cell strips dissecting the panel into thirds. These bands give the panel the appearance of a large silicon solar cell. I postulate these are busbars and used to interconnect the solar cell strips.

And per the above mentioned three dimensional (3D) diagram, Stellaris plans to use thin film photovoltaic material at the bottom of each parabolic trough lens. In my opinion, this approach becomes very interesting if thin film deposition can be used to grow the photovoltaic strips on top of the trough material. This would eliminate the need to cut thin film photovoltaic strips and fasten them to the troughs with an adhesive or other process.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Solarvalue releases 2006 Annual Report

For no particular reason, I checked the Solarvalue AG (XETRA:SV7) website this evening, and I stumbled on this German only release of their 2006 Annual Report, Geschäftsbericht 2006 zum Download. The German version may have been released on March 29, 2007? The English link to the same report has April 18, 2007, as the release date.

This report shows how important it was for Solarvalue to land a strategic partner (Solarvalue goes “Back to the Future” with Moser Baer Photo Voltaic partnership). Solarvalue had total assets of about €1.622 million at 2006 year end and working capital requirements of €15 million to get solar grade silicon production going at the TDR Ruše facility in 2007.

Solarvalue is having their Annual General Meeting 2007 (for 2006?) on April 27, 2007, at 10AM. The location is down the road from their Berlin offices at:

Ludwig Erhard Haus
Fasanenstraße 85
10623 Berlin

I assume shareholders have received or will receive a copy of the annual report and the 22 page invitation proxy statement to the shareholder meeting in the mail. I didn’t like get the memo on this one.

There is also a counter proposal or objection to Item 8. in the proxy statement from xpensio GmbH. Item 8. appears to deal with increasing capital stock and related bylaws.


Monday, April 16, 2007

AE Polysilicon moves to Pennsylvania

Finds a friend in Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell

Fairless Hills, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, USA will be the home of AE Polysilicon as announced in this press release, PA Governor Rendell Announces Arrival of Solar Material Manufacturer in Bucks County. I first saw this reported in the Weekly Newsletter from Solarbuzz here, Fairless Hills, PA, USA: AE Polysilicon to Construct New Manufacturing Facility.

AE Polysilicon is purchasing about 20 acres of land with an existing 39,000 square foot building in the Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone (KOIZ). AE Polysilicon plans to renovate the structure into a corporate headquarters and begin constructing an open air manufacturing facility on five acres of land this July and create at least 143 jobs in 2008.

The Bucks County Economic Development Corporation teamed with the Governor's Action Team to lure AE Polysilicon away from New Jersey with a $1.92 million financial package including a $1.76 million loan from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority. AE Polysilicon is also eligible for a low interest $5.8 million loan from the Citizen’s Job Bank in return for a commitment to create new jobs in the Keystone state.

"We are honored to be part of Governor Rendell's vision," said
Dr. York Tsuo, president of AE Polysilicon. "The amount of
support we have received from the state and local governments
and industry has made Pennsylvania the ideal state to locate
our production facilities."

So this news will be a shock to the AE Polysilicon skeptics. There are a few immediate questions about this development. How and/or from whom will AE Polysilicon source the silane or trichlorosilane required by their Fluidized Bed Reactor technology? Does this mean AE Polysilicon is on track for initial Phase 1 capacity of 1,500 metric tons per year by the end of 2008? How did New Jersey lose this deal? Is this related to the mismanagement of funds over at the New Jersey Clean Energy Program?


Energy Storage

[San Francisco, California USA]

Renewable Energy’s Missing Link

On Wednesday, April 11, 2007, I attended The MIT Club of Northern California Clean Technology Program event titled Energy Storage – The Missing Link.

First, the website for the 2007 California Clean Tech Open (CCTO) should go live with details on the 2007 competition Monday, April 16, 2007. This was per a representative from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. This year’s competition will add a Green Building prize to last year’s prize categories of Air, Water & Waste, Energy Efficiency, Renewables, Smart Power, and Transportation.

The speakers at this Energy Storage event had a large centralized power plant focus. Since PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG) co-sponsored the event, at least one speaker should have presented small scale, distributed energy solutions for balance.

This key slide from the Electricity Storage Association ( was first presented by Dan Rastler of the Electric Power Research Institute and includes the following energy storage technologies: Pumped Hydro Storage, various Batteries, CAES (Compressed Air Energy Storage), Flywheels, SMES (Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage), and Ultra Capacitors. Hydrogen and ubiquitous fossil fuel storage solutions are not mapped. Mr. Rastler stated today’s energy storage solutions are two (2) to five (5) times more expensive than the ideal target goal of less then $150 per kWh (kilowatt-hour) for a four (4) hour energy storage system. In photovoltaic terms, four hours is sufficient to extend the summer peak afternoon sun to peak summer electricity consumption in the early evening.

As can be seen above, deep cycle, lead acid batteries still dominate from a cost per unit power perspective for practical energy storage applications including solar electric systems. Rick Winter from the consulting firm, Distributed Utility Associates, predicted Lithium-ion batteries will catch and overtake Lead acid batteries on a cost per unit power basis in the near term because of applied research focus and critical mass production returns to scale. Many next generation Plug In Hybrid Vehicles (PHEV) will adopt Lithium-ion batteries instead of Nickel Metal Hydride batteries (NiMH) despite recent Lithium-ion battery issues like Dell blames battery for exploding notebook. And a number of panelists advocated the PHEV V2G (vehicle to grid) concept promoted by PG&E.

Mike Gravely, Research Program Manager for the California Energy Commission, discussed the Energy Systems Integration area of the PIER (Public Interest Energy Research) program. Mr. Gravely directs over $60 million in energy research projects with a focus on technologies near or ready for commercialization including energy storage. Check the PIER site for new program funding solicitations and deadlines.

Dr. David Mills, Chairman and Chief R&D officer of Ausra, Inc., pitched a storage angle on the CSP (Concentrating Solar Power) technology Ausra is developing. CSP uses the sun to heat water driving steam turbines to produce electric power at market competitive prices. Dr. Mills envisions thermal storage of heated water and steam for time delayed use by turbines with high thermal storage efficiency. Dr. Mills moved his company from Australia to Palo Alto, California, to gain access to capital and the US market to commercialize Ausra’s Compact linear Fresnel reflector (CLFR) power plant technology. Ausra claims to be building or developing several CLFR based plants in Portugal, Australia, and the USA.

Upcoming electrical energy storage industry events in the United States include the Electricity Storage Association 2007 Meeting from May 23-25, 2007, in Boston, Massachusetts, and EESAT 2007, the Electrical Energy Storage Applications and Technologies Conference, from September 23-26, 2007, in San Francisco, California.

As usual, Leah Krauss, UPI Energy Correspondent, has chimed in with a contemporary article on the energy storage subject pertinent to photovoltaics in Solar World: Storage is key.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Solarvalue goes “Back to the Future” with Moser Baer Photo Voltaic partnership

Solarvalue AG flip flops on going it alone and finds a Silicon partner

First, a correction to my post, Moser Baer PV invests in Solarvalue AG, is required. This transaction should be described as MBPV, a wholly owned subsidiary of Moser Baer India Limited (BOM:517140), has acquired a 40% stake in Solarvalue Proizvodnja d.d., with Solarvalue AG (XETRA:SV7) retaining 60% ownership. Per the joint presentation:

Moser Baer will do a significant investment as a shareholder in this project. The acquisition will guarantee MBPV an assured supply of high grade solar wafers and help Solarvalue increase the production capabilities of its silicon production plant in Ruse.

The presentation is available on the Solarvalue AG website at:

Partnership with Moser Baer PV: press conference during the PHOTON Technology Show in Munich

In typical Solarvalue style, the amount of MBPV’s investment or the price of the 40% stake in Solarvalue Proizvodnja d.d. (perhaps they are one and the same?) were not disclosed. I suspect MBPV has committed to a staged investment of funds as Solarvalue achieves specific, objective milestones. Per my first, exclusive Solarvalue post, Secretive solar start-up, Solarvalue AG, reveals solar grade silicon production plans through joint venture bid for TDR-Metalurgija in Ruse, Slovenia, the first obvious milestone is:

After they upgrade or augment the TDR d.d. facilities with refining furnaces, Solarvalue will need to develop a stable process and deliver sample production SGS material to solar wafer and cell partners for qualification.

As I blogged in Solarvalue discusses plans and process:

“In the first six months, strategic investors will provide 20 million for setting up the production of solar grade silicon,” said Strategy Advisor Joerg Duske. One strategic investor from India has a technology expertise focus, while the second strategic investor from Europe is obtaining a stake in the TDR Ruse plant to secure silicon for solar cell production. An additional 10 million investment will be required in 2008 to complete the 4,400 metric ton capacity ramp. Later, Solarvalue may forward integrate ingot and wafer production from solar grade silicon at the TDR facility in Ruse, Slovenia.

Despite Solarvalue’s revised capital investment estimate of 10 million, my guesstimate (estimated guess) is MBPV’s first stage investment is from 5 to 10 million and their total commitment is from 20 to 30 million as factory conversion and production milestones are achieved.

Other important terms of the deal were absent. Does MBPV have an obligation to purchase 40% of annual solar grade silicon production and at what price? Is the price at or below (or above?) €40 per kilogram? Does MBPV have an option or right of first refusal to purchase additional solar grade silicon? I have a strong suspicion there may be unarticulated aspects to the MBPV investment including access, licensing, or a joint venture to bring the Solarvalue Solar Grade Silicon process to India =if= all goes well with the investment.

I reviewed John Mott’s presentation, “Metallurgical Grade Silicon and Solarvalue’s Solar Grade Silicon Procedure”, at PHOTON EXPO’s 4th Solar Silicon Conference, and I noticed the following off message line from the usual claim of 4,400 metric tons:

End of 2008: Capacity for 5,000+ metric tonnes of SGS

Innocent oversight or is this part of the answer to Solarvalue: What ever happened to the M5 arc furnace? The M5 arc furnace was not mentioned in John’s presentation.

Solarvalue shares almost hit €35 in trading after this investment was announced. Don’t forget, Solarvalue still has an undefined Price to Earnings ratio.

Check out the promotional video or VIDEOCLIP on the Solarvalue website at and click on the movie projector icon. Or here is a direct link,, I got from the page source. I think the video is a bit over produced, and the soundtrack is a cross between The Terminator and Donald Trump’s The Apprentice “reality” TV program.

And thanks to the folks on the Solarvalue discussion board over at Wallstreet Online ( for linking to my Blog posts. I appreciate the added Blog traffic.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Moser Baer PV reveals Solaria Supercell

At joint press conference between Solarvalue AG and Moser Baer Photo Voltaic Limited (MBPV)

I was taking a quick look at the press materials, and Moser Baer PV presented a few slides on their Photovolaltaic strategy. I expect Solarvalue will place this presentation on their website soon.

The Solaria Supercell has a striking similarity to the Stellaris technology presented at
19th NREL Industry Growth Forum. This photo is also on the MBPV website Technology page.

Per the grainy diagram from the presentation which I presume relates to Solaria, strips of thin film are used by this low concentration approach, not multicrystalline silicon. I will examine this in further detail later. Also, please see my previous post, Solaria spills low concentration photovoltaic technology at Symposium.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

From Siberia with Polysilicon

NITOL Group Going solar in a big way

I first wrote about the NITOL Group in From Russia with Polysilicon. Per the recent press release, GT Solar Signs $49M Polysilicon Reactor Contract with Nitol Group, the Nitol Group’s NITOL-Silicon, Ltd. subsidiary is stepping beyond trichlorosilane production and entering the Big Show (American term for Major League Baseball) of polysilicon production. NITOL – Silicon’s production is located at Usolie-Sibirskiy Silicon, Ltd., Irkutsk region.

Per NITOL Group President, Dmitry Kotenko:

GT Solar’s experience in the manufacture of reactors and other PV equipment is a perfect match with NITOL’s experience as a producer of silicon organic gases. NITOL is on track to be the most competitive polysilicon and wafer producer in the fast growing PV industry.

The NITOL Group’s solar ambitions extend beyond polysilicon production and include wafer manufacturing. I expect this development will be a recurring theme on this Blog as traditional competitors and assumptions about the photovoltaic market are challenged by new entrants with complementary diversification strengths and new business models.

It is hard to translate NITOL’s contract with GT Solar into annual polysilicon production capacity in metric tons. I have heard from one source that GT Solar's equipment is very expensive.

I must admit the Program for PHOTON EXPO’s 4th Solar Silicon Conference looks very strong. John Mott will be presenting the Solar Grade Silicon Production plans of Solarvalue, while Jan Maurits, VP Operations, Poly Plant Project Inc., USA, will talk about the Design and Process Changes for a Solar Grade Polysilicon Plant among many others.

Despite my prediction in Photovoltaic Conference and Exhibition Preview 2007, I was granted an accreditation for the PHOTON Technology Show 2007 in München. Alas, I was unable to obtain a flight that met my schedule and budget constraints before the Easter Holiday. This means I will miss the joint press conference between Solarvalue AG and Moser Baer Photo Voltaic Limited on April 4, 2007, during the PHOTON EXPO at the M,O,C, Lilienthalallee 40, 80939 München, Germany, Halle 4 (Atrium), 1. OG, Room E 125. As I often say these days, “Bummer, Dude!”


Monday, April 02, 2007

Blue Square Energy sets the impurity enriched solar cell record straight

Discusses Silicon Wafer Recycling business and Bright Point solar cell technology and plans

In late January 2007, I was contacted by two first round, angel investors in Blue Square Energy (BSE), Ray Moyer, CEO of EPX (Electronic Payment Exchange), and Joseph Babin, COO of Blue Square Energy and founder of Opis Advisors. As private equity investors, Ray and Joe prefer to stay close to their investments working with the management team and adding value. And their efforts have driven change in Blue Square Energy’s approach to the press and this blogger in particular.

I’m sure my last post about Blue Square Energy, Blue Square Energy hypes impurity enriched silicon solar cells, may have prodded this decision. I reread the post before starting this article, and my fingers were singed by the printout. [Flame off!]

Over a period of two years, Blue Square Energy was financed with $5 million by first round investors to kick start a silicon wafer recycling business. Built under time and under budget, silicon wafer recycling generated a profit within 12-14 months of the commencement of operations.

Silicon wafers used for recycling into solar cells originate from the semiconductor industry. These wafers started their lives as electronic grade monocrystalline silicon ingots pulled via the Czochralski process and sawed into wafers. Per Blue Square Energy, about 10-20% of all wafer starts in the semiconductor industry are utilized for quality control of the manufacturing process creating an after market for scrap wafers. Scrap wafers can either be sold to steel and aluminum industries as metallurgical silicon or to the photovoltaic (PV) industry at a premium. Driven by polysilicon shortages for silicon solar cells, scrap wafer prices have increased from about $1.40 each (200mm wafers?) in 2004 to about $11-13 per 300mm wafer in 2007 (source: BSE).

Scrap semiconductor wafers are converted into wafers suitable for solar cell processing using a cleaning or recycling process to remove contaminates or dopants applied during semiconductor wafer processing. “Cleaned” wafers can be processed into solar cells using standard PV industry cell processing production equipment. BSE claims their recycled solar cells average about 14% electrical conversion efficiency comparable to mainstream multicrystalline silicon (mc-Si) solar cells.

Per Blue Square Energy via Mr. Moyer, here are the strengths and weaknesses of the silicon wafer recycling business for solar cells:

Advantages to using scrap semiconductor wafers:

  • Cheaper than virgin wafers
  • Recycling cost is minor
  • High barriers to entry without established vendor relationships

Disadvantages to using scrap semiconductor wafers:

  • Wafer supply (quantity & quality) is inconsistent and varies between vendors
  • Recycling process requires significant engineering know-how
  • World supply (market potential) is limited by semiconductor industry’s scrap supply
  • Increasing foreign competition

Today, BSE manufactures up to 15,000 300mm (12 inch) and 6,000 200mm (8 inch) solar cells from recycled circular wafers per month using a single shift for annual production capacity of 2 MW (Megawatts). Blue Square Energy asserts that making solar cells from smaller recycled wafers does not make economic sense.

As I speculated in my first post about Blue Square Energy, the company is reinvesting the profits generated from the recycling business to finance a new proprietary solar technology called Bright Point.

Bright Point solar cells utilize an impurity enriched metallurgical grade silicon (called UMG by BSE) substrate instead of higher quality solar grade silicon. Per Blue Square Energy, the “impurity enriched” moniker of UMG defines silicon between metallurgical grade silicon and solar grade silicon in purity.

Through a process developed by BSE, a second layer of silicon is deposited on the low cost UMG substrate. The Bright Point solar cell is designed so the active deposited silicon layer and the UMG substrate interact to achieve higher solar cell conversion efficiencies. I believe this UMC substrate forms the base of a high performance, low cost silicon solar cell approach in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Very High Efficiency Solar Cell (VHESC) program.

At present, first generation Bright Point solar cells achieve about 10% (ten percent) conversion efficiency, and BSE believes this can be improved to as high as 14%. Blue Square Energy’s product roadmap will build upon Bright Point technology. Second generation Bright Point solar cells are targeting 20-24% conversion efficiency at an aggressive cost of $1 per Watt. BSE plans a third generation Bright Point solar cell with a whopping 25-32% conversion efficiency target.

Blue Square Energy is now developing manufacturing processes and equipment for the mass production of first generation Bright Point solar cells this year.

BSE COO Joe Babin said, "Blue Square Energy will be the first to market with a solar cell produced on a UMG substrate."

By the fourth quarter of 2008, Blue Square Energy expects to ramp Bright Point solar cell production to a 200 MWp (Megawatts peak) annual run rate. After the angel round and two pseudo series B rounds with smart money from institutional investors, Blue Square Energy has sufficient capital to commercialize Bright Point technology.

I look forward to tracking Blue Square Energy’s progress in 2007 to see if BSE can achieve their conversion efficiency targets for Bright Point in mass production.