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Monday, July 30, 2007

Sol3g secures Triple Junction Solar Cells from Azur Space

Almost 8 million III-V Triple Junction Solar Cells!

On July 25, 2007, Sol3g, S.L. and AZUR SPACE Solar Power GmbH entered into a supply agreement for 44,000 wafers of III-V Triple Junction solar cells over the next three (3) years. The 44,000 wafers represent the equivalent of about 8 million cells or 30MWp (MegaWatt-peak) of HCPV (High Concentration PhotoVoltaic) solar modules. Each wafer is 10cm (centimeters) in diameter with 178 cells per wafer.

Please see Sol3g and Azur Space sign a contract for the supply of triple-junction concentration cells for the official press release.

Sol3g states this supply agreement will cover their HCPV solar module production for the next three years. Since Sol3g is now ramping 5MWp per year of annual production capacity, this agreement confirms Sol3g’s plans to more than double this production capacity over the next three years.

This photo supplied by Sol3g shows Dr. Klaus-Dieter Rasch (left), Managing Director of Azur Space, and Ricard Pardell (right), Managing Director of Sol3g, sealing the deal with a ceremonial handshake.

At first, solar cells designed for space applications are being supplied with 32% efficiency at 380 suns. Azur is in the process of optimizing the solar cell device structure for operation in terrestrial applications with Air Mass 1.5 Direct (AM1.5D) solar spectral irradiance. With these optimizations, Azur expects to increase the average production solar cell efficiency to 35% in 2007 and 37% in 2008 both at 380 suns.

Sol3g joins SolFocus (SolFocus deal with Boeing (Spectrolab) ) and Solar Systems Pty Ltd (Solar Systems and Boeing enter Agreement) in announcing significant supply deals for III-V Triple Junction Solar Cells for HCPV solar applications although both of these deals were with efficiency leader Spectrolab, a Boeing company. Concentrix Solar has yet to announce a supply deal with long time partner Azur Space.

In related news, SolFocus has moved out of the PARC palace and located their new headquarters offices in Mountain View, California USA.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

2007 California Clean Tech Open Finalists

2007 Finalist Directory now online!

In this year’s California Clean Tech Open (CCTO), 50 finalist teams were selected from a field of 120 entries. The finalists were announced via email after today’s (July 26, 2007) Green Building Innovators Symposium held at Google building 1500. This event was sponsored and hosted by Google.

Criteria used in the judging of entrants are explained at how the 2007 Finalists Have Been Selected.

By my counts, the category finalists were distributed as follows:

nine (9) in Air, Water & Waste,
eight (8) in Energy Efficiency,
eight (8) in Green Building,
nine (9) in Renewables,
six (6) in Smart Power,
and ten (10) in the Transportation Category.

Alas, the team I was invited to join did not make the finals. For the curious, my team’s entry was not in the Renewables category and had nothing to do with Photovoltaics. I look forward to reporting on future developments at the 2007 California Clean Tech Open competition as press without the embed angle.

Thanks to all of this year's CCTO Volunteers.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Solar Light Flashes: July 22, 2007

Select Photovoltaic News Tidbits

Intersolar 2007 and 2006 California Clean Tech Open (CCTO) companies have dominated Blog coverage over the past month. It’s time to get back to covering staple companies and topics although there are follow up Intersolar 2007 and PV Industry Forum 2007 posts plus SEMICON West coverage in the works.

Applied Materials:
Applied Materials Names Chris Eberspacher to Lead Advanced Solar Research and Development lends support to the notion that things may not be so rosy at Nanosolar. Dr. Eberspacher left Nanosolar just over one month ago.

Blue Square Energy (BSE):
Alan Swanson Joins Blue Square Energy as Vice President of Manufacturing Operations bringing thirty years of experience from Tyco Electronics and the former AMP, Inc. To complete the management team in preparation for a potential IPO, BSE needs to name a VP of Engineering or CTO or both.

CMC Magnetics Corp:
Following the Moser Baer model, CMC Magnetics, the largest Taiwanese maker of optical media, is setting up a subsidiary, Sun Well Technology, to produce thin film solar modules in Taiwan. Information from industry sources (rumors) allege the 100MWp facility will be equipped by Oerlikon Solar.

Cool Earth Solar:
I stumbled on this video animation titled Inflatable Solar Collectors on YouTube. I don’t know the origin of the animation, but this appears genuine.

Norsk Hydro ASA (NYSE:NHY) and the Umicore Group (EBR:UMI) have formed the HyCore joint venture to produce solar grade silicon from metallurgical silicon using a process first researched by Umicore. €26 million will be invested to construct a 20 metric ton pilot plant at Herøya, in Porsgrunn, Norway, by 2008. If proven successful, a larger facility will be constructed at the same site to produce industrial scale volumes by 2010.

Umicore has about 90% market share in Germanium (Ge) substrate wafers required for compound semiconductors like III-V Triple Junction solar cells used in High Concentration Photovoltaic systems.

Updated CORE Queues every two weeks now? CORE Queue > 10kw July 13, 2007 (greater than 10kW), CORE Queue <= 10kw July 13, 2007 (less than or equal to 10kW), Public Non K-12 Schools CORE Queue July 13, 2007, and Public K-12 Schools CORE Queue July 13, 2007 are available. An Updated 2007 CORE Budget July 13, 2007 shows the under funded status details of the main CORE Queues, and the Comment Summary: New Jersey Renewable Energy Solar Market Transition Straw Proposal has a number of company and policy centric comments and counter proposals.

A fresh new look for the NJCEP website is due by August 1, 2007.

Oerlikon Solar:
I heard Oerlikon Solar was briefing press (though not this blogger!) about a significant announcement. I have no idea what it is, but speculations include ersol or Schott in official production, more new orders like CMC Magnetics, or could Micromorph tools be shipping?

Solar Newsletter No. 2, July 17, 2007, was distributed at SEMICON West but is not yet on the Oerlikon Solar website at post time.

PV Cycle:
Per the EPIA (European Photovoltaic Industry Association) Newsletter, SOLARIS, the PV CYCLE association created on 5th July 2007 by founding members: Avancis, BSW, Conergy, EPIA, Isofotón, Schott Solar, SolarWorld, and Sulfurcell. An executive board was appointed to prepare for the first General Assembly meeting of the PV Cycle association scheduled for September 18, 2007, in Brussels, Belgium. Interested companies are welcome to apply for membership in the PV CYCLE association and membership information should be forthcoming to EPIA members.

Sol3g, S.L.:
In Sol3g makes a 1 kWp pilot installation financed by Solúcar, an Abengoa subsidiary, the company announced an agreement with Solúcar Energia, S.A., for a 1kWp (kilowatt-peak) HCPV (High Concentration PhotoVoltaic) system pilot installation. Another 20kWp of HCPV modules (M40?) will be supplied for mounting on Solúcar’s own two-axis tracker. Both of these systems will be located in the Solar Platform of Sanlúcar la Mayor, Sevilla, Spain.

And SunPower CEO Tom Werner Named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2007 Award Recipient in Northern California would not be my first choice since I believe the PowerLight acquisition is an expensive distraction from increasing SunPower’s production of the highest efficiency, back contact, monocrystalline solar cells and modules. Why was Ernst & Young LLP not disclosed as being the independent auditor of PowerLight Corporation’s financials from 2005 and 2006? Although the award claims to use a panel of independent judges, how were the initial nominations made?

The SPR-315 datasheet is now online at the SunPower website.

Given the accelerated velocity of photovoltaic and solar activity, I don’t envy publications trying to cover every aspect of the PV Industry. I’ll stick with this Blog’s established format of looking for areas less covered or where I can add insight and commentary.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

EnFocus Engineering garners $2.9 Million Photovoltaic Technology Incubator Award

Hatching High Concentration PhotoVoltaic (HCPV) modules for rooftop applications

As part of the Solar America Initiative, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has selected EnFocus Engineering among ten initial recipients of cost shared Photovoltaic Module Incubator projects. Per the press release, DOE to Provide Nearly $60 Million for Advancement of Solar Energy, all these projects are subject to negotiation of final terms and Congressional appropriations. Background information is available in the Photovoltaic Technology Incubator Awards Fact Sheet.

Dr. Jason Lu, Founder and President of EnFocus Engineering said:

The SAI Incubator funding will allow EnFocus to build prototypes and a pilot production facility to take the first-of-its-kind Diamond-Power™ high concentration fixed-panel technology to the rooftop solar panel market where high efficiency matters most.

EnFocus is matching the $2.9 million in DOE funds with $1.02 million in company investment.

I first met Dr. Jason Lu at the 19th NREL Industry Growth Forum, and I reported about his company, EnFocus Engineering, in this overview of Solar start ups at the 19th NREL Industry Growth Forum Part 1.

A quick look at the EnFocus Engineering Corporation website won’t reveal anything more about this startup’s product plans. Information about EnFocus can be obtained by contacting Dr. Lu via the E-mail button.

The key United States Patent filing for EnFocus is available at the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office): 20070070531 for a Radiant Energy Conversion System.

Other Initial PV Technology Incubator Awardees blogged about here include Blue Square Energy ($2,990,000), Plextronics, Inc. ($3,000,000), Solaria Corporation ($2,600,000), and SolFocus, Inc. ($2,000,000). More details about all the companies, projects, and the funding can be found in Overview of SAI PV Incubator Awards.

To my knowledge, EnFocus is the sole company with an HCPV module in a near traditional flat panel form factor.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

SEMICON West 2007 Preview

Photovoltaics in the Emerging Technology Spotlight

SEMICON West 2007 Program and Events get underway for five days starting Monday, July 16, 2007, and the Exhibition runs for three days beginning Tuesday, July 17, 2007, at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California, USA.

Things solar kickoff on Tuesday, July 17, 2007, from 3:00pm to 5:00pm in the West Hall, Level 2, with the TechXPOT - Emerging Technologies - Nanoelectronic and Nanoenergy Applications featuring David Pearce, President and CEO, Miasolé, with Advances in Flexible Thin-Film Solar Cells. Nanotechnologists may also find this TechXPOT - Emerging Technologies - Nanomaterials and Tools Innovations of interest.

Day Two Keynotes are monopolized by solar with T.J. Rodgers, Chairman, SunPower Corporation, explaining How Silicon Valley is Helping to Solve the Energy Dependence Problem. Rhone Resch, President, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), follows with Solar Energy: The Next Great Growth Opportunity for the Semiconductor Industry. Both keynotes are scheduled from 1:30pm to 3:00pm on Wednesday, July 18, 2007, at Center Stage/West Hall, Level 2.

Then Thursday, July 19, 2007, the TechXPOT - Emerging Technologies - Renewable Energy: Solar and Fuel Cells has twenty (20) minute sessions discussing material and manufacturing innovations from 10:30am to 1:00pm at West Hall, Level 2. Charlie Gay, VP and general manager, Solar Business Group, Applied Materials, leads off with Issues of Going to Gigawatt-scale Solar Manufacturing, followed by competitive counterpart Hans Brändle, Head of Oerlikon Balzers Coating, executive VP Oerlikon, presenting Thin Film Silicon- Key to Photovoltaics. Gaetan Borgers, Director Dow Corning Solar Solutions, bats third, and Nasreen Chopra, Director of Equipment R&D, SunPower Corporation, closes the solar portion of the session by 11:50am.

Solar and Photovoltaic Exhibitors are spread about the exhibition halls with concentrations in the South, North, and West Halls. An online exhibitor search tool can help with crafting your top company list.

If you still want to attend SEMICON West 2007, you can register here. This could be the start of a long lasting Renewable Energy and SEMICON West relationship.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Solarvalue secures TDR Facility for Solar Grade Silicon Production

Completes return to strategy before the Adjusted Business Plan

On the heels of Solarvalue AG: Financial Measures Ensure Further Growth (Deutsch) announcing an increase of share capital by 210,000 shares, Solarvalue AG (XETRA:SV7) subsidiary Solarvalue Proizvodnja d.d. has purchased a significant portion of the TDR factory in Ruše, Slovenia, larger than the previous lease back arrangement. Solarvalue also took on over sixty (60) TDR employees. See the press release Solarvalue Buys Production Plant in Slovenia (Deutsch) for the official announcement. Solarvalue AG holds 60% of the Solarvalue Proizvodnja d.d. shares, and Moser Baer Photo Voltaic Limited (MBPV) holds the balance of 40%.

Although the TDR press release talks about a blast furnace, I confirmed with John Mott this should have said submerged arc furnace. There isn’t even a blast furnace at the TDR Facility! With the purchase, Solarvalue will be able to consolidate operations in the Ferrochrome and the M1 furnace buildings shortening material transfers for raw materials and molten silicon metal. This development also opens up avenues of previous speculation mentioned in this Blog.

Per the decision at the Annual General Meeting, Solarvalue will issue 210,000 new shares by no later than August 2007. Existing shareholders have a right of first refusal to purchase one (1) new share for each four (4) shares they own now. Another 365,700 shares have been authorized for issue. In addition, convertible or warrant linked bonds or both have been authorized for issue up to €15 million.

And John Mott has a new Blog entry, Silicon – the Second Most Abundant Element on Earth since I noted the prior inactivity in Solar Light Flashes: June 11, 2007.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Concentrix Solar Concentrator Proving Ground Slideshow

Here is a slideshow of the Concentrix Solar FLATCON® Concentrator Test Field located next to the Solar Info Center in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. This was a short ten minute walk from the Messe Freiburg where Intersolar 2007 was held.

All of the trackers are 2-axis for the FLATCON modules. I have not been able to establish a dialog with Concentrix so I do not know if the two alternative tracker configurations are new or old designs under evaluation.

I was able to squeeze this visit in after lunch between the strange Intersolar 2007 weather with daily morning and afternoon rain showers timed to arriving and leaving the Messe.

This slideshow is brought to you by Google’s Embed Slideshow feature for Picasa Web Albums.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Oerlikon solar at work: Intersolar 2007

ersol Thin Film in production now?

On the first day of Intersolar 2007, I stopped by the Oerlikon Solar stand and chatted at length with Juerg Steinmann from Marketing Communications.

Company building ersol Thin Film GmbH at Solar Gate 2

At Intersolar this year, Oerlikon Solar promoted Turnkey solar factories from just one supplier with the introduction of the TCO 1200 as the final element of their turnkey thin film solar module manufacturing solution, FAB 1200. The TCO 1200 deposits a Transparent Conductive Oxide on glass for front and back electrical contacts via an LPCVD (Low Pressure Chemical Vapor Deposition) process using Zinc oxide. As Mr. Steinmann pointed out, there are different flavors of Oerlikon Solar’s turnkey solutions dubbed standard/standard+ (plus), turnkey/turnkey+, and tandem depending on production line equipment selections such as the TCO 1200.

Mr. Steinmann tackled my perceptions about Oerlikon’s fixed module size of 1.1m (meters) by 1.3m having limited use in BIPV (Building Integrated PhotoVoltaics) applications. Mr. Steinmann said this module form factor was selected as the optimal size to minimize cost, maximize efficiency, and address practical issues.

First and foremost, this module form factor is designed to provide the lowest cost per Watt-peak and deliver competitive kiloWatt-hours (kWh) because of a smaller temperature coefficient than multicystalline Silicon (mc-Si) solar modules. Also, in cloud induced shading, the smaller form factor helps to maximize array output versus larger modules.

Practical considerations include the cost to replace a broken module and module handling. The module size enables a single person to carry and install the module even in countries with strict union or workplace rules about lifting.

For large scale solar power plants, this Model T product strategy has been proven a winner by First Solar, and I believe Oerlikon’s customers can be successful in this application. However, I remain skeptical whether these modules will succeed in BIPV applications.

On the technology and bookings front, Oerlikon hosted a Solar Day (including presentations) on June 15, 2007, in cooperation with manufacturing partner, ersol Thin Film GmbH. ersol Thin Film is the first Oerlikon customer on the cusp of volume thin film module production. A few statements by Dr. Uwe Krüger, Chief Executive Officer of OC Oerlikon, from the Solar Day event ring true versus Oerlikon’s competition in solar thin film manufacturing solutions.

Dr. Krüger said:

Our customers – and this is very important to us – confirm that we have a 12- to 18-month lead.

Whereas our competitors announce a lot of new developments, but so far cannot demonstrate any real production lines, the ersol fab is a reality. We don’t just promise – we deliver. Our production line turns out 120 square meters of silicon thin film solar modules per hour at a power of 70 Watt per square meter. These are real values, and not just numbers on a PowerPoint slide.

This Solar Day event is covered in Solar Newsletter No. 1 June 2007. Oerlikon Solar just began publishing this monthly newsletter calledsolar at work" in English and German (Deutsch). I suggest going to Register for Newsletter or Download Newsletter to subscribe or get your copy.

For my questions regarding ersol Thin Film’s production status, Mr. Steinmann directed me to the ersol stand and Karsten Weltzien, one of ersol Thin Film’s managing directors. A last question about the status of API GmbH orders was shrugged off with no news to announce as expected.

Later at the ersol stand, Mr. Weltzien recognized me as I arrived. I first met Mr. Weltzien last year at Intersolar 2006. Mr. Weltzien confirmed ersol Thin Film’s production is sold out to a small number of key partners but could not provide any color on the official volume production start date besides production this summer.

As far as production targets and capacity, Mr. Weltzien reiterated news from the recent ersol Annual General Meeting. ersol expects to have 40MWp (MegaWatt-peak) of thin film solar module capacity in place by the end of 2007 and estimated production of 6MWp of thin film modules in 2007 and about 24MWp in 2008. ersol has also disclosed plans to increase thin film module production capacity to 100MWp by about 2010.

Source: ersol Solar Energy AG (FRA:ES6) Annual Report 2006

Per Mr. Weltzien, ersol Thin Film Fab 1 production of amorphous silicon (a-Si) thin film Nova® solar modules will be binned to 75Wp (Watt-peak), 80Wp, 85Wp, and 90Wp ranging from 5.25% to 6.29% in module efficiency centered at 80Wp. I trust I got these peak power bins correct since I was unable to confirm these with ersol before posting. ersol has mentioned 120Wp as a longer term target; I expect a Micromorph Tandem thin film module will be needed to achieve this goal.

Although in ersol Group inaugurates thin-film module production site, ersol states:

Serial production planned to begin at the start of August 2007.

Reading between the lines and weighing the facts, I believe ersol Thin Film can be considered in production now. I expect thin film solar modules produced until the official production announcement in August and passing all production tests and meeting quality and warranty requirements will be shipped as finished product. Please don’t read anything into my disclosure below; this is my independent assessment and intuitive assertion.

After I wrote Applied Materials Solar shuts out Oerlikon Solar 3:0, I was surprised by the level of interest this post generated although I knew there was a dearth of coverage concerning photovoltaic production equipment. As alluded to in Oerlikon Solar: Company Dramas upstage Thin Film progress, this is in fact the future post regarding positive developments at Oerlikon Solar, a division of OC Oerlikon Corporation AG (VTX:OERL).

And The OC of OC Oerlikon stands for “one company” not Orange County or Ocean City. Oerlikon is a suburb of Zürich where the company was founded back in 1906. I first noticed this connection mapping hotels in Zürich.

(Full disclosure: Last summer (2006), I was offered a position at ersol Thin Film that was later withdrawn. The details are not relevant to this disclosure; you will have to wait for my memoirs for the story – if I ever have reason to write them!)

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Cool Earth Solar combines with Radiant Energy

By combining forces, Cool Earth Solar, Inc. (CES) will complement their expertise in Concentrated PhotoVoltaic (CPV) technology with the Project Development and Finance experience of Radiant Energy LLC. This announcement comes just three weeks after the Cool Earth Solar emerges from Stealth Mode post.

Mr. Rob Lamkin is Chief Executive Officer and Dr. Eric Cummings is President and CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of the new Cool Earth Solar parent company.

Per Mr. Lamkin:

The integrated company now has a stronger platform from which to advance its break-through technology and quickly bring it to market. Negotiations are on-going with several utilities to sell clean renewable solar energy from its utility scale power plants.

For more information about Cool Earth Solar’s CPV technology, see the CES entry at the Pure Energy Systems Wiki (PESWiki) or download the CoolEarth Solar Power 2006 Presentation that I wrote about in California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger addresses Solar Power 2006.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

PV Industry Forum 2007

[Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany]

Solar Systems Victorian Project presented last but still best of Forum

There were about 300 participants at the PV Industry Forum 2007 on June 20, 2007, in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, organized by Solar Promotion GmbH and PSE GmbH. As I mentioned before, this year’s program emphasized Thin films and Concentrating PhotoVoltaics (CPV). The Forum was a bit dry this year since the interactive peanut gallery comments of Prof. Dr. Peter Woditsch, Deutsche Solar AG CEO, were absent.

As I did last year (PV Industry Forum 2006 in Freiburg Part 1), I want to highlight the most compelling presentation first. Mr. Dave Holland, Solar Systems’ Managing Director and CEO, presented Experience in concentrator technology.

After reviewing the Solar Systems mainstay solution, the CS500 dish concentrator PV unit, Mr. Holland discussed how Solar Systems partnered with the Australian Federal and Victorian governments to accelerate HCPV (Heliostat Concentrator Photovoltaic) Getting to mainstream by subsidizing the 154MW Victorian Project as announced in World-leading mega scale solar power station for Victoria. Maybe it is better to let Mr. Holland speak for himself in this video clip:

The 154MW Victorian Project will use heliostats or sun tracking mirror collectors to reflect sunlight onto solar modules mounted atop fixed receiver towers about 40 meters in height. An active water (even high salinity water) cooling system will be used to keep the multi-junction III-V photovoltaic cells operating at 60ºC in order to optimize energy output and generate 270,000 MWh (MegaWatt-hours) of electricity per annum upon project completion.

The Victorian Project has grant funding totaling $125 million AUD (about €80 million Euros). $75 million AUD was provided by the Australian Federal Government under the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund (LETDF) while the Victorian Government provided $50 million AUD. Project financing for the remaining $295 million AUD will be sourced from the private sector.

In numbers, the Victorian Project requires: 19,250 Heliostats, 246 Receivers, 62,976 PV Modules, and 600 to 800 hectares of land. The project will be constructed over six and a half years in three phases: 2MW Phase 1, 100MW Phase 2, and 50MW Phase 3.

In the following video clip, Dr. Winfried Hoffmann, Applied Materials GmbH & Co. KG, asks how HCPV stacks up versus large scale Solar Thermal plants, and Mr. Holland tips plans to split the heated water to create hydrogen for energy storage.

And for those folks who believe the PV Industry can be covered from a cramped desk on Wall Street, Jesse W. Pichel, Sr. Research Analyst, PiperJaffray, attended this year’s PV Industry Forum although his name was absent from the attendee roster.

As you can see, the PV Industry Forum 2008 will be held on June 10-11, 2008, at the New Munich Trade Fair Centre.

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