Chipmaker Intel is the latest technology giant (after IBM and Applied Materials) to join the solar fray. It has spun-off its solar division to form an independent company called SpectraWatt that will manufacture crystalline silicon based solar cells. Neal Dikeman of CNet talks to the CEO of SpectraWatt about future prospects and the possibility vertical integration.
GE has increased its stake in PrimeStar Solar, a thin-film start-up relying on cadmium telluride technology (just like thin-film blue eyed boy, First Solar). While the use of cadmium causes some toxicity concerns, PrimteStar seeks to address these through its production policies. Separately, GE is teaming up with GAF Materials, North America's largest roofing company, to create "one-stop shopping for new roofs and solar electric systems." These are just the kind of strategic and innovative partnerships that can potentially help bring the transaction costs of installing roof-top solar systems down.
Speaking of IBM, the Big Blue continues its solar agenda by collaborating with Japanese manufacturer Tokyo Ohka Kogyo, a leading supplier of photoresists for semiconductor, flat panel display, printed wiring board and packaging, in CIGS (Copper-Indium-Gallium-Selenide)-based thin-film technologies. According to the press release, it aims to develop cells with 15% conversion efficiencies compared the to the 11 to 12% efficiencies available in the best commercially available thin-films cells today.
As if in response to IBM's announcement, NanoSolar released some truly astonishing footage of its its new "nanoparticle ink" press, a $1.65 billion 1-GW-per-year tool capable of coating 100 feet-per-minute of CIGS material that has a 14% efficiency. This is significant news for several reasons. First, most production tools in the solar indnustry have production capacities of only 10-30 MW annually. Second, solar cell efficiencies of 14% represent an improvement over what is commercially available today. Third, the company claims that 100 feet-per-minute is just a start, and that 2,000 feet-per-minute is possible! See also this piece by GreenTech Media for a the potential cost-breakthroughs that this annoucnement represents. Previously, the company also announced that it has a "fabulous" plan for serving the residential roof-top market. If all that the company claims is true, I wouldn't bet against this Google-backed startup (technically backed by Google's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, rather than Google itself) when they IPO.