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  • Intersolar Show Size Triples

Photonics.com
Jul 2009
SAN FRANCISCO, July 17, 2009 -- Today's show is brought to you by the numbers two and three.

The Intersolar show just held here tripled in size in a year, expanding from a single floor to an entire convention hall. The number of exhibitors doubled, going from 210 to 437. That doesn't count the 120 or so photovoltaic related exhibitors at Semicon West, which took place at the same time.

So the outlook should be bright for the solar industry, right?

MIT-solar-panels.jpgIt is, even though the current situation is a bit dimmer. Companies here were showing off ways to help solar firms hit the cost goal of a dollar a watt - or less. SVTC Technologies, for example, announced an agreement with PV tool maker Roth & Rau to establish a 30 megawatt PV development and manufacturing center in the Silicon Valley city of San Jose. The base tool set, company officials said, would yield 15% efficient PV cells.

Customers could then develop their own special sauce, with a ramp into limited production possible at the same facility. For customers, it offers a way to do so cheaply. For Roth & Rau, it gives them a North American presence and makes it more likely their tools will be used in production.

For SVTC, it's an extension of its semiconductor service and an area that the company has some experience in, said vice president David Anderson. "We have half a dozen solar-based companies working in our current silicon fabs."

Those firms are using a variation of standard semiconductor processing, he added. The new facility, which will be operational first quarter next year, will be a dedicated PV development line.

In another example of both cost cutting and preparation, Air Liquide is offering a way for PV companies to make the transition from small initial volumes to full scale production. Introduced several years ago and aimed at PV, LEDs, and optical fibers, the company's ALUX is a turnkey gas, equipment and associated services solution for providers in those industries.

Thomas Kunjachan, ALUX program manager, said that the focus now is on how to wring cost out of these setups. He noted they also had to be able to handle a wide range of run rates. "It has to be scalable," he said. "Success depends on the ability to scale."

The cost contribution of gases and chemicals, such as those supplied by Air Liquide, could be as much as 30% for amorphous thin film PV, considered a contender for tomorrow's dominant technology. For the current leader, single crystal silicon PV, the cost component is much less.

A final instance of getting ready for future PV growth at lower cost can be found in Silicon Border Science Park, which is in Mexicali, Mexico. Before the current slowdown, Mexico was thought to be a logical site to build PV plants.

PV panels are large, which makes shipping costly. So the idea is to build plants in cost favorable locations near the end user. Thus, attention turned to Mexico for possible sites.

According to Michael Oliver, executive vice president for business development at Silicon Border, things haven't yet gone according to plan. One announced project fell through as a result of the credit squeeze.

No other projects have taken its place. But Oliver noted that discussions are ongoing and thinks the site will prove itself. "We're excited about the project. We think it's the right place."

Hank Hogan
hank@hankhogan.com






GLOSSARY
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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