The sun always shines on photovoltaic market

01 March 2007

Worldwide energy demand is set to continue to rise, and solar energy is predicted to fulfill an increased portion of that demand. The value of the solar equipment market is expected to triple from last year's figure of around $1billion, to over $3billion in 2010.

From California, piloried for its for its excessive energy use, there are increasing plans to increase what the Amercians call alternative and what the Europeans call sustainable, forms of energy.

Applied Ventures is the venture capital arm of Applied Materials, which provides services and equipment for chip, flat panels and flexible electronics fabrication. It also provides the means to fabricate solar photovoltaic cells and energy-efficient glass. (www.appliedmaterials.com)

The venture capital arm of the company has invested $3million in Solaicx (www.solaicx. com) a private manufacturer of single-crystal silicon wafers for solar photovoltaics, to expand with a second US manufacturing site scheduled to be in operation later this year. The investment is seen as a means for Applied to increase its solar power plans, with the reduction in price per Watt as the goal that will make solar power an attractive, alternative, energy source.

Photovoltaic modules are expected to more than triple in a five year period from 2005 to 2010, climbing to 531MW, worth $1.3billion. Of this, crystalline silicon cells account for 76 per cent of shipments, dominating thin film versionss, such as amporphous silicon, cadium telluride, gallium arsenide and copper indium diselenide or copper indium gallium diselentide.

Part of this will be brought about by Solaicx's cost-efficient solar wafer production, which will dovetail with Applied's own manufacturing technologies and production facilities.

Solicx's proprietary continuous Czochralski (CZ) crystal growing method enables high volume manufacturing of cost-effective, highquality ingots that are converted into solar wafers. The crystal growing equipment is expected to be up to five times more productive than traditional CZ systems, according to the venture capitalists.

Applied Materials provides manufacturing tools and technology and process innovations that can be used by customers to increase conversion yields on solar photovoltaic development projects, to reduce the overall cost per Watt. The company provides processes, material handling technologies and services to support solar cell production for crystalline silicon and thin-film solar applications. The company has in-line sputtering systems installed in customer locations around the world for quality deposition, high throughput and low cost of ownership for thin-film and multi- or mono-crystalline silicon.

According to president and CEO, Mike Splinter, the solar industry has reached the 'inflection point...as solar customers seek economies of scale.....and who can provide systems that meet technology, throughput, quality and yield goals.' This cost balance can be achieved, he says, through adapting existing technology and new innovations.

Germany is often seen as the leader in renewable energy products and UK distributor Quadrant (www.quadrant-ltd.co.uk) now carries a photovoltaic junction box (pictured) designed for thin film photovoltaic modules from the German company Telegartner Geratebau. The junction box interfaces between the glass module with the semiconductor working unit and the inverter. It links the conducting tab at the rear of the module to the cabling behind the inverter. The junction box measures only 11mm high, to save space compared with other available products. Assembly can be manual or automatic. Multifinger
contacts provide a large mating surface and improved electrical contact, claims the company. Maximum current rating is 10A and maximum system voltage is 300V. Contact resistance is less than 5m_ and operating temperature is –35°C to +90°C. The housing is protected to IP65.


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