(March 2004) Shell Solar and the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy (ISE) address new procedures to improve cell efficiencies and make production of thinner and cheaper cells. Their research work will center on a new dry, plasma etching process to remove the phosphorous glass from the cell surface after diffusion, a process in the past which has been expensive. The new plasma development etching process is intended to incorporate passivation of the cell front and back with nitrogen gas and hydrogen. This passivation method will also permit the use of thinner, cheaper wafers.
(Oct. 2003) Honda Engineering produces next-generation solar cell panels. The new solar panels feature a light-absorbing layer formed by a compound made of copper-indium gallium and selenium (CIGS) which lowers the amount of electricity required for production process of solar cells, compared with ordinary silicone-crystal type of solar cells. The electrolysis unit, which generates hydrogen from water, has been replaced with a new Honda-developed compact unit that achieves higher efficiency using a new Ruthenium based catalyst. Both the new solar cells and the new electrolysis units are mounted on the Honda solar-cell powered hydrogen refueling station in Torrance, California.
(August 2003) Shell redesigns two power modules for greater power output. The round solar cells in the product lines are being replaced with square shaped cells. The unoccupied spaces between the cells are smaller. One new module, the Shell SQ80 (80 Watts peak power) will replace a 75 Watt unit. The Shell SQ160-C (160 Watts peak power) will supercede the 150 Watt power unit.
Shell Solar will also supply 2,400 CIS (copper, indium, selenium) thin film PV modules to a major construction project in North Wales. This is Shell’s largest order since they became involved the solar industry.
CIS thin film is a new way of making a solar cell. Copper, indium and selenium are applied in minutely-thin layers to glass through a vacuum process. This vacuum technique is widely-used for coating window glass but is relatively new in the solar industry. The current mainstream crystalline silicon solar technology involves sawing, chemically etching and baking thin wafers from rods of highly-purified silicon in a high temperature process. The main benefit of CIS thin film technology is anticipated lower manufacturing costs and a more competitive kiloWatt hour price.
Photovoltaics Being Developed As a Clean Energy Source. A Group at Colroado State University is developing ways to significantly reduce the cost of manufacturing photovoltaic cells. A new machine produces three inch square solar cells at the rate of one cell every two minutes, a 100 fold increase in the speed over currrent technologies.(08-02BD77-13)
Astropower to acquire Atersa and supply cells for 13 MW PV plant
Atersa has a 50% stake in AstraSolar supplying APex solar cells to a solar electric power plant which will generate up to 4% of the total peak load of the Spanish Murcia region. A consortium including Atersa will use incentives of the Spanish Government in the project .(02-02 BD71-14)
BP announces plans to increase its Spanish PV production fivefold
BP will purchase the Agere Systems semiconductor plant in Madrid which will produce 60 MW of high-efficiency crystalline silicon Saturn solar cells per year. BP plans to invest $100 million in the project.(02-02 BD71-14)