Clean Power Graphic credit: Crystal Solar

Published on January 25th, 2013 | by Andrew


Up And Coming Solar PV Innovators Aim To Grow Markets, Drive Costs Even Lower

January 25th, 2013 by  

Industry players and the Department of Energy’s renewable energy initiatives are focusing in on the soft costs of having solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems installed given the sharp drops in cost of solar PV equipment experienced in recent years; soft costs such as permitting, installation, and operations and maintenance.

That by no means implies that equipment cost reductions have reached their limit, or that entrepreneurial start-ups and large and established solar PV equipment suppliers are slackening the pace of innovation.

Two young California solar PV companies adding momentum to the solar PV innovation and equipment cost reduction drive made business news headlines this week. Sunnyvale-based Alta Devices produces the thinnest, highest efficiency flexible thin-film PV cells on the market, while Santa Clara’s Crystal Solar is commercializing a vapor deposition process that holds out the promise of cutting cost of fabricating solar PV cells in half.

Graphic credit: Crystal Solar

Silicon PV Innovation: Making Solar Energy Yet More Affordable, and Commonplace

Prices for PV modules dropped between 30% and 41% in the year to September 2012 and between 51% and 64% for the two years to September 2012 in Europe depending on the technology and source, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) “Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2012” report

IRENA analysts expect further equipment cost reductions out to 2020, a development that will further enhance the affordability of solar power. The rate of decline for solar PV out to 2020 will likely be slower than that of recent years, however. That may well prove to be too conservative a judgment.

Founded in 2008 by professors Harry Atwater of Cal Tech and Eli Yabonovitch of Berkeley, Alta Devices produces the solar energy industry’s thinnest and most efficient thin-film PV cells. This mobile power technology can be integrated in an increasingly wide range of products—from special purpose and mobile consumer electronic devices to clothing accessories.

“This technology significantly extends the battery life of any application, in many cases eliminating the need to recharge from the grid because it converts more light into electricity. This provides the ultimate in portability,” Alta states on its website.

CEO Christopher Norris said management expects military applications to account for around 80% of revenue in 2013. Looking forward, Alta sees the market for solar-powered mobile phones and consumer electronic devices growing to become a $20 billion market through 2016, according to a Bloomberg News report.

Cutting Silicon PV Costs in Half

Santa Clara-based Crystal Solar has developed a vapor deposition process for fabricating solar silicon wafers that serve as the substrate for PV cells. Its “Direct Gas to Wafer” technology eliminates two entire steps in the conventional fabrication process – fabrication of polysilicon and production of polysilicon ingots – producing solar silicon wafers directly from the application of silane gas to metallurgical silicon.

This innovative process “wastes less silicon during processing than conventional approaches and greatly reduces the amount of equipment needed to make the wafers, potentially cutting wafer costs in half,” according to an MIT Technology Review report. “Wafers account for a third to a half of the cost of making a solar panel.”

South Korea’s Hanwha, an integrated solar PV supplier that’s been expanding its presence along the global value chain amid recent ructions in the industry, in September announced that it was making a $15 million strategic investment in Crystal Solar.

On January 21, Dow Corning, one of the world’s largest producers of solar silicon, announced that it is partnering with Crystal Solar in a venture to supply high-performance, silicon-based materials for photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules.

“The two companies also intend to assess options for developing high-performance building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) solutions for building and construction, focusing on both commerical and residential applications,” according to a Dow Corning press release
Get CleanTechnica’s 1st (completely free) electric car report → “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want.”
Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

Back to Top ↑
  • Advertisements

  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Cool Cleantech Events

    Low Voltage Electrification Event, April 25-27. Detroit, Michigan (US)
    Delve deep into the benefits and challenges associated with EV power supply.

    Offshore Wind Market Development USA, May 11-12, Boston, Massachusetts (US)
    Network and establish your business in one of North America’s largest energy industries.

    Energy Storage USA, June 15-16, San Diego, California (US)
    Only event in the United States focused exclusively on the commercialization of storage.

    More details are on: Cleantech Events.

  • Advertisement

  • CleanTechnica Electric Car Report

    Electric Cars Early Adopters First Followers
  • Tesla Model 3 Review by EVANNEX

    Tesla Model 3 Review from EVANNEX
  • Tesla Model 3 Exclusive Video

    Tesla Model 3 Video
  • Tesla Model 3 Exclusive Pictures

    Tesla Model 3 Video
  • Tesla Model X Review #1 (Video)

    Tesla Model X Review from new owners Zach Shahan
  • Tesla Model X Review #2 (Pictures)

    Tesla Model X Review from Kyle Field
  • Tesla Model S Long-Term Review

    Tesla Model S Long Term Review from Kyle Field
  • Nissan LEAF Long-Term Review

    Nissan LEAF Long Term Review from Cynthia Shahan
  • Interview with Michael Liebreich

    Interview with Michael Liebreich
  • Interview with Akon (Teslas & Solar)

    Interview with Akon Tesla Model S Tesla Model X Solar Power Africa
  • Interview with Dr Nawal Al-Hosany

    Interview with Dr Nawal Al-Hosany
  • Interview with Gro Brundtland

    Gro Brundtland
  • Interview with President of Iceland

    President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
  • Interview with Nick Sampson

    Faraday Future VP Nick Sampson
  • Interview with Dipal Barua

    Dipal Barua 1st ZFEP WInner
  • Interview with Jonathon Porritt

    Jonathon Porritt
  • Interview with Clint Wilder

    Interview with Clint Wilder
  • Interviews with Solar Impulse Pilots

    Bertrand Piccard Andre Borschberg
  • Check out more CleanTechnica Videos.

  • Join The Solar Revolution!

    Edison-solar-energy solar-energy-spill-nice-day
  • Cost of Solar Panels

  • Search the IM Network