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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Peak Sun Silicon: Polysilicon from Oregon

50 MT (metric ton) Pilot Production ramping in the first quarter 2009

As of late, Peak Sun Silicon Corporation has been basking in the peak Intersolar North America 2008 and Oregon news with:

I learned more About Peak Sun Silicon when I ran into their stand at Intersolar in San Francisco.

Peak Sun Silicon will produce granular polysilicon utilizing a unique tribromosilane (SiHBr3) or TBS based continuous manufacturing process operating near atmospheric pressure and lower temperatures with improved energy efficiency. Per this Schumacher Bromosilane Process description:

The SBP process change from conventional polysilicon approaches is from an open-loop, batch, high temperature process, to a closed-loop (environmentally friendly), continuous, low temperature process. This innovation is accomplished by changing the silicon chemistry from a chlorine base to a bromine base (tribromosilane or "TBS"), and use of a "fluid bed" ("FB") deposition reactor with continuous recycle of by-products.

The Peak Sun Silicon Granular Feedstock Specification describes their Electronic Grade polysilicon with 10N (ten nines) purity as uniform dense spherical-bead sized 1mm granules perfect for continuous silicon solar wafer growth processes

On February 28, 2008, Peak Sun Silicon held a ground breaking ceremony for their new headquarters and polysilicon production facility located in Albany, Oregon, near Millersburg. Per the press release Peak Sun Silicon Breaks Ground on Polysilicon Facility in Millersburg, Oregon:

Phase I construction will include a 5,000 square foot chemical purification building and a 5,000 square foot electronics grade polysilicon processing building.

Phase I is now expected to ramp 50 MT per year of pilot polysilicon production capacity in the first quarter of 2009 using tribromosilane produced on-site. Millersburg plant will make polysilicon for chips in solar panels reports the estimated construction cost is about $29 million, up from about $18 Million in Silicon maker picks Millersburg site and will employ 50 workers to start. As part of Peak Sun Silicon Secures Series A Funding for Polysilicon Manufacturing Plant, the total amount of Series A funding is not disclosed, but the mix of debt, equity, and tax incentives includes a $14 million loan under the Energy Loan Program administered by the Oregon Department of Energy.

In Phase II, Peak Sun Silicon plans to ramp polysilicon production capacity to 5000 MT per year in 2012 and bring online an additional 5000 MT per year capacity in 2013 for a total of 10000 MT per year. Peak Sun Silicon expects Phase II will require $700 million in capital investment and increase employment to about 500.

Patents and Process advantages
While the original Schumacher Bromosilane Process patent is over 30 year old:

United States Patent 4,084,024 April 11, 1978
Process for the production of silicon of high purity

a newer patent invented by Lloyd Woerner and Edward Moore for the J.C. Schumacher Company innovated the low temperature, closed loop process:

United States Patent 4,318,942 March 9, 1982
Process for producing polycrystalline silicon

Additional process reports are available from the NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS):

The production of solar cell grade silicon from bromosilanes
Closed-Loop Process Yields Ultrapure Silicon (abstract only)

According to the Peak Sun Silicon presentation by President and CEO John C. Schumacher, Ph.D. (see Resume), at the Photon Expo in Munich, Germany, on April 2, 2008, the Schumacher Process for producing silicon has the following advantages:

  • Environmentally sound -- effluent recycled 100%
  • Low carbon emissions – 61 pounds CO2/kg
  • Energy efficient – 50kWh/kg total heat load (“THL”)
  • Low temperature – 850 oC maximum
  • High Yield – dust free
  • Efficient use of materials -- closed loop process
  • Zero explosive polymer formation in exhaust
  • Fluid Bed Product & Synthesis Reactors
  • High purity – raw material impurities purged from recycle

Peak Sun Silicon also manufactures high purity Phosphorus Oxychloride (POCl3) used as an N-Type dopant for silicon solar wafers.

The Solar Jobs Rising in Oregon article tips three big solar companies are considering the Oregon Solar Forest for manufacturing facilities and one existing company is planning an expansion. Code names Project Ark (Sanyo?), Project Harvester, and the big one Project Tahoe are used to disguise solar companies considering Oregon for manufacturing sites.


Friday, July 25, 2008

1st Solar Symposium: Feed-in Tariff for California First

Focus on Feed-in Tariffs (FiT) at the state level for solar.

[San Francisco, California USA]

On the eve of Intersolar North America 2008, Monday, July 14, 2008, I managed to attend the 1st Solar Symposium sponsored by the German American Chamber of Commerce (GACC), California Branch. Although the 1st GACC "Solar Symposium" Fully Booked - International Audience Expected, I was able to jump from the wait list to an attendee despite my over aggressive accreditation tactics.

Before lunch, SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association) President Rhone Resch presented “The US Prior to the 2008 Presidential Elections - Status and Perspectives of Solar Promotion on a Federal Level”. The ITC (Investment Tax Credit) myopia continues as HR 6049 is supposed to be coming up for another vote in the Senate soon. There was no mention of the first national Feed-in Tariff bill, HR 6401 Renewable Energy Jobs and Security Act, introduced by U.S. Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA). Please see PVSC 33 Opens and Feed-in Tariffs: Solar FiT for the USA for related posts.

In the afternoon, the Panel Discussion, "International Perspectives: What are the Most Promising Incentives to Develop the US Solar Market", tackled opposing views on the status quo of rebates and ITCs versus the market proven German Feed-in Tariff model. The panel was moderated by:


and included:

Adam Browning kicked off the discussion with his presentation, "US Solar Market - Policy Drivers". In his opening, Mr. Browning said:

When it comes to Energy policy much of it is lead at the state level rather than at the Federal level. Most of the most critical electricity related rules and regulations are set at a state level.

This observation was echoed by many panelists who advocated activity at the state level over complex and protracted energy policy legislation at the Federal level.

However, a misleading comparison of Rebate programs with net metering versus the Feed-in Tariff model is shown in the slide above titled “Avoided Utility Purchases with Marginal Incentives vs. Feed-in Tariffs.

Adam Browning said:

…From a policy maker’s perspective we are looking at what is the amount of public funds, the above market cost, that they are going to need to have to provide to a program in order to make that program work, give a financially interesting proposition to people who want to go solar.

Under this particular model, most of the value comes from avoided utility purchases and you give an incentive that is just the marginal difference to get to an economically interesting proposition.

Under a Feed-in Tariff, you must provide the full value of that electricity and from the policy maker’s perspective that often looks like a much larger amount which makes it harder to do.

This perpetuates Adam Browning’s flawed Feed-in Tariff versus Marginal Incentive article refuted by Michael Hoexter in Feed-in Tariffs: Getting off the Renewables Roller Coaster, both found at

V. John White said:

Despite all the noise from California, if I may be blunt, the truth of the matter is 95% of all renewable megawatts in this state were built in that period (1980’s). In the entire 15 years since then, most recently since the 2002 passage of the Renewable Portfolio Standard, the 20% standard by 2017 which has since now been advanced to 2010. We are not much closer to that goal than where we started. We have In fact lost ground from about 12% to 11%.

Professor Eicke Weber said:

I think our goal should be exactly like you (John White) said; the fastest possible introduction of the largest possible quantity of renewable energy.

And now let me again make my pledge why the Feed-in tariff works, the German model. The reason is it is not based on people who like PV and who are happy to get a tax credit to get a lower priced PV; this is nice, and nobody would be against it. But the key issue is to provide an interesting investment proposal, a business plan, so that anybody can sit down and say my roof has this size I can produce 5kW (kilowatt) of PV. It means at the end of the day when I have paid down the system I get each month a paycheck.

Net metering is wrong. Net metering is the wrong way. Net metering means the best you can achieve is bringing your utility bill to zero. And this is just against what we all try to do on the energy savings side.

Energy efficiency and conservation efforts do not scale with net metering as noted in my AB 1920: California bill goes beyond Net Metering post.

John Geesman said:

As a consequence, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch in terms of normal governmental authority to see the logic of Feed-in Tariffs. Now there are those that will differ. They will say that’s delegating to the states an awful lot of authority. I’m here to tell you in my adult lifetime, national energy policy as much as I have known about it, has almost consistently been headed in the wrong direction. And I put a lot more comfort in seeing those decisions made by the states.

Although I’m not sure when he arrived, John Garamendi, Lieutenant Governor of California, was intensely interested in the afternoon panel discussion and closed the symposium with a speech waxing fluent about Feed-in Tariffs. Lieutenant (Lt.) Governor Garamendi said:

I like what Germany has done with its Feed-in Tariffs; they apparently worked. We could try all kinds of models, but it seems to me we start with a model that works.

He encouraged the panelists to reach a consensus and work to get a FiT policy in place for California. The Lt. Governor Garamendi also observed California policies at the city, county, and state levels need to be integrated and aligned to achieve the goal of transitioning from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.

Last year when I asked the Lt. Governor about Feed-in Tariffs for renewable energy at the 2007 CCTO Competition (please see California Clean Tech Open 2007 Kick-off Event Wrap up), they were not at forefront of his considerations. 1st “Solar Symposium” of the German American Chamber of Commerce an Immediate Success has additional quotes and the GACC’s perspective.

Although they claimed to have FiT policy efforts, CALSEIA (California Solar Energy Industries Association) did not respond to my requests for details about their proposed approach to a California Feed-in Tariff for solar.

California has an immaculate convergence of great solar resources, sustainability and environmental awareness, renewable business ventures, and progressive political support to Go Big Solar driven by a German style Feed-in Tariff. Is a foolish name change to Freedom Tariff or Energy Independence Tariff needed before we can adopt sound renewable energy policy as our own?

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Intersolar North America 2008: Silicon Updates

[San Francisco, California USA]

Dow Corning and REC Silicon Videos and select Presentation slides.

As part of the North American Photovoltaics Advanced Manufacturing Technology Conference: Bulk Silicon at Intersolar, here is a video of the presentation:

Silicon and Silicone: Addressing Critical Needs Throughout the PV Value Chain
Dr. Gaetan Borgers, Global Industry Director, Dow Corning Solar Industry

Focusing on Dow Corning’s Upgraded Metallurgical (UMG) Silicon developments, Dr. Borgers said:

By end of last year, we have gone from 1000 to 3000 metric tons of capacity. And the important thing I want to highlight here is that we did that in less than a year. And I think that’s proving one of the benefits of metallurgical silicon which is that you can bring additional capacity quickly.

Dow Corning is considering large UMG capacity expansions after the next generation material is launched.

After some production delays, the PV-1201 market launch is now expected in the fourth quarter of 2008. Dow Corning claims PV-1201 will permit blend ratios of 25% (percent) or better with polysilicon. As shown in the roadmap, an even purer material with greater than 80% blend ratios is expected in 2009 or 2010.

Later at the Solar Materials, Equipment & Technology (SMET) Conference, I also videoed the Renewable Energy Corporation ASA (OSL:REC) REC Silicon division presentation:

Overview of Silicon Production and Capacity
Gøran Bye, Executive VP, REC Silicon

REC does not believe the strong growth of polysilicon availability will result in immediate oversupply because:

  • Almost all REC polysilicon capacity is contracted under Prepaid or Take or Pay (TOP) terms, and it will be paid.
  • Polysilicon inventories are nonexistent
  • Huge underutilized downstream capacity exists

Continuing, Gøran Bye said:

In addition to that, if we do believe in the solar story, and we do believe that cut wafers will be an important part of that in the future, there is a significant additional capacity that is needed by (?) 2020.

If the cut wafer part of the industry continues to grow with about 33-35% per year, there will be a need for 800000 (metric) tons of polysilicon in 2020.

Thin Film Photovoltaics has emerged as a key driver for monosilane gas demand growth as overall demand has almost doubled from 1600 MT (metric tons) in 2006 to 3000 MT 2008. While production capacity is far larger than merchant market silane gas demand, most silane is used by REC and MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc. for internal polysilicon production. There may be a supply pinch in 2008, but this will be an inventory and logistics issue only.

REC plans to support the growth of the merchant silane market and maintain their market leading production and sales position through long term contracts with their gas distribution customers.

Start of something big
REC Silicon’s ambition is to maintain their market position as the photovoltaic industry continues to experience tremendous growth per the above slide (a bit different from the one shown in REC Group Capital Markets Day 2008). Their next production facility is expected to be up to four times as large as the new Moses Lake facility to achieve the scale required for competitive low cost polysilicon production. REC Silicon is also evaluating silane production capacity expansion dedicated to supplying the merchant market.

And the next day, Friday, July 18, 2008, REC announced “Secures NOK 5 billion in silane sales contracts” and said:

REC Silicon, the world's largest producer and seller of monosilane gas, has signed a number of new long-term agreements with existing customers (major gas distributors) for the supply of monosilane gas (SiH4).

REC claims monosilane gas deliveries are already underway at average sales prices about 15% higher than prior market pricing. These contracts represent all the monosilane capacity REC plans to allocate to the merchant market through 2009 with additional volumes in 2010 through 2014 dependent on end user demand growth.

I presume longtime REC customer and partner, Air Products & Chemicals, Inc. (NYSE:APD), is among the existing customers securing long term silane gas supplies for their photovoltaic, semiconductor, and flat panel display end customer base?

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Intersolar North America: Exhibition Photos

Exhibition and Press Conference Update

The Intersolar North America 2008 Exhibition opened yesterday, Tuesday, July 16, 2008, at a prompt 10:00AM. In lieu of a delayed post about the German American Chamber of Commerce sponsored 1st Solar Symposium (updated with select presentations), I opted to share the experience of visiting the Intersolar Exhibition with two Picasa slideshows.

Intersolar North America expects about 13,000 registered attendees for the inaugural tradeshow. These attendees consist of Intersolar only and SEMICON West registrants expressing an interest in Intersolar. The Exhibition features 210 exhibitors and is a manageable size this first year. A few companies missing from the Exhibition included: Evergreen Solar, First Solar, Q-Cells, Schott Solar, and PHOTON International (Solar Verlag).

Strange but true…
The Panasonic stand is hawking the sale of their Plasma Display Laboratory in Highland, New York USA. I can only presume they feel the facility can be retrofit for thin film solar production with minimal effort. The 93000 square foot building has 34330 square feet of Class 100 Clean Room Space and resides on a 6.3 acre site.

I have thus far commuted on the train (Caltrain) to San Francisco each day for Intersolar. Things were going like clockwork until this morning when my express train turned into a local because of system delays. When I was reviewing my commute options, I stumbled on this news, BART goes solar, saving a projected $3.4 million over 20 years. BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is a subway or light rail system serving the San Francisco Bay area. SunEdison, LLC was awarded the $3.8 million contract to install a solar panel canopy at one of BART’s Orinda Station parking lots.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Intersolar North America / SEMICON West 2008 Preview

July 14 - 17, 2008, in San Francisco, California USA

While Intersolar North America 2008 ( has its official kickoff on Tuesday, July 15, 2008, the Conference Program begins on Monday, July 14, 2008, per Intersolar North America Details Conference Sessions and Accompanying Programs. Here is the Conference Program Overview.

On Monday, Greentech Media is hosting an all day seminar, Concentrating Solar Technologies and Markets, and the German American Chamber of Commerce is initiating the 1st Solar Symposium (Program).

The Intersolar North America (NA) Exhibition runs from Tuesday through Thursday, July 15 – 17, 2008, located at Moscone Center - West Hall, Level 3. I have not found a detailed exhibitor map, but an online Exhibitor and Product Search tool is available to screen the 210 registered exhibitors. If you have not yet registered, the exhibition only registration fee has increased to $100 at this point.

In the Innovation Exchange Program, exhibitors deliver 30 minute presentations about their new developments, products, or services at Moscone West Hall, Level 3, Alcove 4, per the linked schedules below:

Tuesday, June 15
Wednesday, June 16
Thursday, June 17

During Intersolar NA, additional conference tracks include:

Photovoltaic (A1, A2, A3, A4)
Solar Thermal (B1, B2, B3, B4)
North American Photovoltaic Advanced Manufacturing Technology Conference (Thin Film / Equipment, Bulk Silicon)
Solar Gigawatts
Solar Finance
Solar Materials, Equipment & Technology Conference (SMET) (Thursday)
Building Integrated Technologies and Market Technology Outlook
Basic and Advanced Photovoltaic Workshops
Basic and Advanced Solar Thermal Workshops

Don’t forget about SEMICON West
In Photovoltaic at SEMICON West 2008, SEMICON West 2008 has a webpage to the shared North American Photovoltaic Advanced Manufacturing Technology Conference program. Also, there is a list of over 250 Photovoltaic Exhibitors at SEMICON West 2008.

The SEMI Theater Presents: series located at Moscone West Hall, Level 2, Booth 8241, offers FREE presentations to attendees of SEMICON West (or Intersolar NA I assume). I noticed the following presentations of photovoltaic interest:

Tuesday, July, 15
11:30am – 12:00pm
Refurbishing a Semiconductor Fab into a Solar Cell Production Facility
Dr. Gerhard Tegtmeyer, Dockweiler

1:00pm - 1:30pm
Solar Boom or Solar Hype?
Jim Hines, Gartner

Wednesday, July 16
12:30pm – 1:00pm
PV Group: An Overview of Photovoltaic Activities at SEMI
Bettina Weiss, SEMI

And I might find a way to Meet the Bloggers from Indium Corporation at SEMICON West, Moscone West Hall, Level 1, Booth 7834, from 2:00-3:00pm on Tuesday, July 15, 2008. There are so many conference programs, when does a person have time to visit the exhibition?

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Advent Solar Arrival

Martin Hermann appointed Chief Strategic Officer

Advent Solar Appoints New Chief Strategic Officer was the recent news from Advent Solar, Inc. Joining Advent Solar in June 2008, Mr. Hermann:

is responsible for the areas of Business Development and Strategy, Planning and Sourcing, as well as Advent Solar’s international growth.

Additional information about Mr. Hermann’s background and experience is available in his public LinkedIn profile.

During my Hiatus, I missed this key Advent Solar press release, With No Need for Manufacturing Unit until Next Year, Advent Solar Releases Work Force. The layoff of 68 workers was the result of the extended research, development, testing, and certification required for the commercialization of 156mm Emitter Wrap-Through (EWT) solar cells and modules. The 156mm EWT solar cell product delay until early next year (2009) confirmed anonymous rumors regarding process issues in my prior Advent Solar posts.

While the Board of Directors is no longer listed on the Advent Solar website, company founder and former CEO Rusty Schmit resigned from the Advent Solar board according to his innovation: article, Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur.

At the 33rd IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference (PVSC 33), Advent Solar presented this paper in a poster (sorry about the overexposure) session:

Area 4: Poster - Crystalline Silicon Solar Cells and Technologies
Busbarless Emitter Wrap-Through Solar Cells and Modules
Peter Hacke, Brian Murphy, David Meakin, Jason Dominguez, Johnny Jaramillo, Michael Yamasaki, James Gee
Advent Solar, Inc., Albuquerque, NM, USA

Downloadable by registered conference attendees from the PVSC 33 website, the paper details proof of concept work on busbarless (versus edge-contact geometry) 125mm x 125mm EWT solar cells in preparation for larger area 156mm x 156mm EWT solar cells.

Per Advent Solar in March 2008:

In order to get the new larger solar cell to market as soon as possible, the company said that the product development phase will take six months, followed by three months of testing, and then six months of certification.

If Advent Solar succeeds with their 156mm EWT solar cell development and commercialization efforts, will the company rehire workers to kick start production in spring 2009 or pursue strategic options utilizing Mr. Hermann’s “extensive experience in M&A” (Mergers and Acquisitions)?

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Blue Square Energy: Solar plans stalled at funding round

CEO Jeff Barnett and father/consultant Dr. Allen Barnett asked to tender resignations.

Since Blue Square Energy also presents at Alternative Energy Innovations 2007, Blue Square Energy (BSE) has failed to raise the outlined $30 million round of venture capital to fund their expansion plans.

In a recent conversation with BSE Chairman Ray Moyer and Board member Joe Babin, I learned that Blue Square Energy has missed hitting critical milestones in the commercialization of Bright Point and confirmed rumored layoffs had occurred at the company.

Leadership issues” have contributed to a morale problem at BSE resulting in the resignations of core technical team members. CEO Jeff Barnett is studying for a Wharton MBA at the University of Pennsylvania rather than committing one-hundred (100) percent to running start-up BSE. BSE shut down the silicon wafer recycling business last November 2007 citing reduced wafer availability from key supplier Intel Corporation because of Quality Assurance procedure and process changes. Government contracts and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Very High Efficiency Solar Cell (VHESC) program are the revenue streams for BSE now.

BSE failed to raise $30 million in VC funding due to concerns surrounding Allen Barnett and the failure at AstroPower along with serious questions related to Jeff Barnett’s ability to manage.

Members of the Board also have come to realize that Allen Barnett is no longer a technical asset to the company. Board members also confirmed that Jeff Barnett has failed to meet almost all timing objectives for Bright Point commercialization.

Contrary to these developments, the BSE Board of Directors still strongly believes in the promise of Bright Point technology and has been careful to maintain relationships with departed members of the company’s core technical team. However, a prerequisite for their return to BSE are changes in the company’s management prompting the Board to take the formal step of asking Jeff Barnett and Dr. Allen Barnett to tender their resignations from Blue Square Energy.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

CaliSolar deal validates Timminco’s Solar Grade Silicon

Dr. Eicke Weber endorses upgraded metallurgical silicon (UMG-Si) from Bécancour Silicon Inc. (BSI).

With TIMMINCO AND CALISOLAR JOINTLY ANNOUNCE SOLAR GRADE SILICON SUPPLY AGREEMENT on June 16, 2008, Timminco Limited (TSE:TIM) subsidiary, Bécancour Silicon Inc. (BSI), will supply CaliSolar, Inc., with 1700 MT (metric tons) of solar grade silicon or UMG-Si beginning in the third quarter of 2008 through December 2012.

Dr. Eicke Weber, a CaliSolar founder and Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg, Germany, said:

CaliSolar, using BSI’s UMG Si, has made a major breakthrough in photovoltaic (PV) technology. The impact of UMG Si in this important, rapidly expanding market can hardly be overstated. By 2015, half of the world’s PV production could be based on the use of UMG Si.

Mr. René Boisvert, President and CEO of BSI said:

In their search for a solar grade silicon supplier, CaliSolar has done extensive tests with materials from many UMG Si producers and obtained cell efficiencies over 15% with our product.

The 15% UMG Si solar cell efficiency tracks comments made by CaliSolar CEO Roy Johnson in the series, Bringing Down The Cost of Photovoltaic Solar Cells - Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, from November 2007.

Here are the WIPO and USPTO patent applications for what I believe is the exclusive license from THE REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA:

USPTO Patent Application Publication Number US

OMG, this patent, one of eight (8) patent applications by CaliSolar to date, showed up just as I was writing this post:

USPTO Patent Application Publication Number US 20080157241
Semiconductor wafer pre-process annealing & gettering method and system for solar cell formation

Please see the post, Cool Earth Solar also at BIG Solar, for information on how to view USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) images.

This new patent application publication appears to include contributions from CaliSolar’s German research and development subsidiary, BerlinSolar GmbH, located in namesake Berlin, Germany.

CaliSolar matched $3.0 million in U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funds with $8.3 million in company investment for CaliSolar: Manufacturing High Efficiency Cells Using Upgraded Metallurgical Grade Silicon (Overview of SAI PV Incubator Awards) as part of the Solar America Initiative.

In my Google video, Professor Dr. Eicke Weber, Director Fraunhofer Institute für Solar Energy Systems ISE, presents "Research applied to industry" at the 4th European PV Industry Forum in Milan, Italy, during the 22nd EU PVSEC. UMG-Si is discussed in the course of this presentation.

I noticed this "Solar Summits Freiburg" conference series from October 22 – 24, 2008, regarding Silicon materials for photovoltaics in Freiburg, Germany, on the Fraunhofer ISE website.

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