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Silicon Valley Nano Ventures
The focus for this column is recent nano solar news as well as a review of current and projected capture efficiency of solar cells as well as current and projected manufactured cost & wholesale prices of solar modules.
February 13th, 2007
Nano Solar News: 2006 & January
Nanotechnology & Solar Power News: 2006 & January 2007
This column will be published monthly, usually in the first week or two of the following month to allow time to evaluate new information. My focus is on nano & clean technology conferences, commercialization of nano technology in solar applications, companies, fundings, solar power issues, and other areas of interest to solar power. The focus for this column is recent nano solar news as well as a review of current and projected capture efficiency of solar cells. All quotations and sources are referenced and all opinions are the opinions of the columnist & not of Nanotechnology-Now.
The January http://www.ibfconferences.com 6th annual Nanotechnology Investing Forum attendance in Palm Springs did not increase from 2006, however the following IBF Clean Tech Investor Summit attendance in Palm Springs grew from 225 last year to ~500 this year, with a very strong focus on solar photo-voltaic technology.
Per Peter Grubstein, Founder & Managing Member of VC firm NGEN Partners said during his presentation "Two years ago 80% of our investments were nanotechnology companies. Today 80% of our investments are clean technology companies. And they are the same companies!"
Nanotechnology has clearly shifted from the R&D phase into the focus-on- commercialization phase, where the market and application & "whole product" are the major focus, rather than the enabling nano technology.
And this brings manufacturing into the foreground, where capital expenditures, cost of goods, cost of production, and yield become ever more important.
The strong commitment to Clean Technology by http://www.nsti.org at the upcoming Nanotechnology 2007 Conference this May - the world's largest & most comprehensive nano technology conference - is one example of this trend. This conference in Silicon Valley is strongly recommended -the focus of this conference & exhibition increases year to year from technology to markets, applications, products - and investors!
The upcoming Clean Tech Forum, February 19-22 in SF, one of the annual conferences staged by the Clean Tech Venture Network, is another venue where nanotechnology (broadly defined as the ability to measure & manipulate matter at the nano scale) is driving clean technology applications, especially renewable energy companies, including solar PV and solar thermal,
http://www.cleantech.com/index.cfm?pageSRC=SanFranciscoForum. At this time this Forum is only open to members, presenting companies, and qualified investors - unlike the IBF conferences that are open to anyone who can pay the entry fee.
The fundamental driver for solar PV & solar thermal is the efficiency & cost of conversion of sunlight to electricity or to heat. In either case, nano scale control of the materials used plus the ability to manufacture materials & devices at a large scale, on a high yield basis, with ever lower costs, and with a long field life, are basic to harvesting enough solar energy to compete with fossil fuels.
While almost all current photovoltaic modules manufactured today (90%+) are made from c-Si at 200+ micron thickness, the major thin film photovoltaic technology, a-Si relies on materials & process control at the nano scale. And companies such as First Solar that have successful launched CdTe based thin film photovoltaic modules or in the case of Boeing/Spectrolab based on GaAs.
Spectrolab uses a multiple junction technology - in this case up to 30 layers consisting of germanium layers to harvest infrared photons and layers of gallium arsenide to harvest different wavelengths of visible light. When coupled with a solar concentrator these cells delivers the equivalent of 240 suns, the cells operate at an efficiency of 40.7% versus the 12% to 22% for standard silicon cells.
(Department of Energy Announcement, December 5, 2005, Spectrolab)
Meanwhile In Palm Springs, Kieren Drain, CEO of Nanogram in Silicon Valley http://www.nanogram.com, presented a breakthrough in manufacturing & using nano scale silicon for the current PV industry dominated by c-Si solar cells. Although companies such as SunPower have successfully reduced wafer thickness to 200 microns (saving on very expensive solar grade silicon), Kieren announced that 20 micron thick solar cells are now possible to manufacture using Nanogram's proprietary technology.
As solar grade silicon is 50% of the cost of a solar module and 25% of the cost of an installed solar system on your roof, a 90% reduction in silicon usage has the potential to reduce module costs by 45% over the next few years.
This is in line with a presentation made by Renewable Energy Corporation (REC) at the http://www.jeffries.com European Alternative Energy & Clean Technology Conference that took place on October 17th, 2006 in London, where REC targeted a 46% reduction in c-Si PV modules by 2010 - without factoring in Nanogram's technical breakthrough! Using $1 cost basis in 2005 and 54 cents target in 2010, REC projected costs as follows:
Silicon costs in 2005 of 15 cents reduced in 2010 to 11 cents.
Wafer costs in 2005 of 23 cents reduced in 2010 to 11cents.
Cell costs of 26 cents in 2005 reduced in 2010 to 13 cents.
Module costs of 36 cents in 2005 reduced in 2010 to 24 cents.
And if we look at the cost/price projections for 2010 and 2015 from http://www.prometheus.org/ we can see that the projected time to achieve this cost reduction was 2015. The cost/price data & assumptions are Peak Watt.
This is an industry consensus which does not take into account the impact of nano scale technology upon materials, devices, and manufacturing processes.
Or of the ability of a fully integrated producer like REC to drive inefficiencies out of the value chain & gain the benefits of ramping production volume.