|Stanford R. Ovshinsky's
dream of rolling out miles and miles of thin film amorphous PV sheets from a
printing press is finally coming true, slowly. First he revolutionized the
EV industry by inventing Nickel Metal Hydride batteries, which were introduced to the consumer market by Varta
in Germany (thanks to your truly... Remy C. Never got a dime for building that
bridge, but I'm all warm & fuzzy inside from having been a part of
history.) and now this:
To all the techo-phobic greens and petro-slave naysayers, you're looking at the future guys, unless of course cold fusion saves the day, or they start letting civilian review teams visit Area 51.
New Photovoltaic Plant Reduces Product Cost
In July 2002, United Solar Systems Corp.’s photovoltaics manufacturing line began production of what will be 30 megawatts worth of cells over the next twelve months. That's a six-fold increase from what the company made in the previous year.
The amorphous silicon created at
the plant is more efficient at absorbing light than crystalline silicon
so the manufacturer uses less material for the same output while making
a durable film that can be readily incorporated into roofing materials.
While traditional solar panels
are 10 microns in thickness, the new plant will produce panels that are
one micron thick (a micron is about 1/70th of a human hair).
The reduction of material size equates directly to a reduction in cost.
Increases in production along
with decreases in cost are making solar roofing systems more cost
competitive with conventional power systems than in the past. A solar
roofing system like that from United Solar can reduce the average
American household’s energy bill by an estimated 42 percent, and, with
one of many available state incentive programs, the systems can pay for
themselves in as little as five years.
Roofers install the product in
one of two forms, which duplicate the look of conventional materials.
Standing seam metal roofs are extremely popular because of their 40 year
life-span and the improved fire rating they bring to a home. Uni-Solar
photovoltaic laminates can be easily added to standing seam metal roofs.
In the standing seam design, wires lead from each panel and terminate at
the ridge-line of the roof, below the vent. This makes accessing
individual cells extremely easy.
The lapped design mimics the weather-shedding design of standard shingles and adds wires from each strip. The wires run through the underlay of the roof where they can be connected away from the elements.
The new production system represents a dramatic increase in productivity over earlier processes. In three days, the new system feeds nine miles of stainless steel, one and a half miles from each of six rolls, through silicon vapor, which is deposited on each sheet. The new system lays down nine levels of silicon on the metal substrates, producing thin, flexible sheets whose active layers are only one micron thick. Every stack of three layers is sensitized to a different portion of the solar spectrum.
United Solar is online at http://www.uni-solar.com/bipv_resid.html.
If you have any questions please contact Michael Coates at (408) 399-9081 or Nate Purpura at (805) 541-0477.
Solar Systems and Bekaert ECD Solar Systems
expansion is expected to increase U.S. solar
Auburn Hills, Mich., June 24,
2002 – United Solar Systems Corp., a joint venture between Energy
Conversion Devices, Inc. (NASDAQ: ENER) and N.V. Bekaert S.A., announced
the official inauguration of the world’s largest thin-film solar cell
manufacturing machine and related assembly equipment at its Bekaert ECD
Solar Systems (its joint venture with Bekaert) facility in Auburn Hills,
new machine is capable of producing nine miles of solar cells in three
days’ time, making United Solar and Bekaert ECD one of the four
largest producers of solar cells and related products in the United
States as well as one of the leading producers in the world.
manufacturing equipment, designed and built by ECD, is the world’s
largest and most advanced production machine for the manufacture of
thin-film amorphous silicon alloy solar cells and related products that
convert sunlight to electricity. The products are used for a variety of
applications ranging from solar lanterns of 2-3 watts to large solar
farms of 500 kilowatts. Because
of characteristics unique to United Solar’s solar cell technology,
such as lightweight, ruggedness and flexibility, they are ideal as
building-integrated photovoltaic roofing systems for residential and
U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham congratulating United
Solar on the inauguration of the plant stated, “This announcement of
the world’s largest thin-film solar cell manufacturing plant comes at
a time when the Nation is faced with increased concerns about energy,
security and the reliability of the electric grid.
The photovoltaic products you are bringing to market are an
important response.” He
also noted, “We at the Department of Energy and The National Renewable
Energy Laboratory are particularly proud of your accomplishments and are
honored to have worked with you on contracts that have resulted in
achievement of world record efficiencies in amorphous silicon alloy
solar cells and modules, the development of award winning products such
as the solar roofing shingles, and the development of your unique
proprietary roll-to-roll manufacturing process.”
Guha, President of United Solar and Bekaert ECD, said, “Building on
the pioneering proprietary materials, device and production technology
of its parent, ECD, United Solar is the world leader in the development
of high efficiency amorphous silicon alloy solar cells and modules.
With this new plant, we now have the production capacity to meet
the increasing market demand for solar energy.”
commenting on the new manufacturing facility, Stanford R. Ovshinsky, the
originator of the roll-to-roll multi-junction process and CEO and
Chairman of United Solar and President and CEO of ECD, and Robert C.
Stempel, ECD Chairman, in a joint statement said, “We are happy that
we have been able to realize this historic milestone in cooperation with
our joint venture partner Bekaert.
With the increasing need for energy independence and the problems
associated with the negative environmental impact of conventional fuels,
we are pleased to be part of the solution.
We look forward to further increasing our capacity in the
Haemers, Chairman and CEO of Bekaert ECD and Corporate Vice President of
N.V. Bekaert S.A., said, “With this plant, we enter the full
industrialization of a unique technology allowing us to accelerate the
growth of the company. The European market is growing rapidly, and we
expect to get a larger share of the market with the commissioning of the
new facility demonstrates Michigan’s commitment to and increasing role
as a world center for new, environmentally friendly technologies that
can significantly reduce the nation’s reliance on oil and fossil
fuels,” said United States Senator Carl Levin (D., Michigan).
pioneered and developed the continuous roll-to-roll solar cell
deposition process (analogous to low-cost, mass production processes
such as for newsprint or photographic film).
ECD and United Solar hold the fundamental patents in this
technology. This approach
is unique in the industry and in high volume production (100 MW) makes
it possible for solar energy to become competitive with conventional
President, United Solar and Bekaert ECD
Solar, building on technology pioneered by ECD, is the world leader in
thin-film amorphous photovoltaics.
ECD and United Solar hold the basic patents covering the
continuous roll-to-roll manufacturing of thin-film amorphous silicon
alloy multi-junction solar cells and related products. United Solar and
Bekaert ECD Solar Systems offer a line of solar electric roofing panels,
which are unique, flexible, lightweight and architecturally attractive.
More information is available at http://www.uni-solar.com.
ECD is the leader in the synthesis of
new materials and the development of advanced production technology and
innovative products. It has
pioneered and developed enabling technologies leading to new products
and production processes based on amorphous, disordered and related
materials, with an emphasis on advanced information technologies and
alternative energy, including photovoltaics, fuel cells, hydride
batteries and hydride storage materials capable of storing hydrogen in
the solid state for use as a feedstock for fuel
Bekaert, the worldwide leading
manufacturer of steel wire, steel wire products and steel cord, is also
a fast-growing manufacturer of advanced materials.
Bekaert’s market and technological leadership is based on metal
forming and a wide range of coating technologies.
It is a worldwide company with over 70 production centers and a
workforce of 17,000 people. Bekaert’s
web site address is http://www.bekaert.com.
This release may contain forward-looking
statements within the meaning of the Safe Harbor Provisions of the
Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such forward-looking
statements are based on assumptions which ECD, as of the date of this
release, believes to be reasonable and appropriate. ECD cautions,
however, that the actual facts and conditions that may exist in the
future could vary materially from the assumed facts and conditions upon
which such forward-looking statements are based.
FACT SHEET ABOUT:
Description: World’s largest thin-film photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing facility.
Capacity: 30 million watts (MW) per year, capable of providing electricity to 15,000 homes every year. This increases the total U.S. PV production capacity by 20%.
Facility: Housed in a 167000 square foot building.
Capital investment: $55 million for machinery.
Technology: Proprietary triple-junction amorphous silicon alloy cell technology protected by more than 165 issued US patents.
Manufacturing Process: Deposition analogous to newsprint production. At the heart of the manufacturing plant is a machine, the length of a football field that takes 6 rolls of stainless steel at a time, each 1.5 miles long, and produces 9 miles of solar cell in three days. The solar cells are converted into panels using an automated assembly process.
Products: Flexible, rugged and lightweight. Show superior performance to conventional solar panels at high temperature or on cloudy days. Deliver more energy per rated power.
Photovoltaic: Conversion of
sunlight to electricity
Thin-film: Less than one micron
thick (a micron is about 1/70th of human hair). Conventional
products are more than 100 micron thick. Material cost with thin film
technology is lower (Please visit http://www.nrel.gov/ncpv/thinfilms.html).
Triple junction: The cell consists
of three sub-cells each absorbing different color of the sunlight- blue,
green and red.
Amorphous silicon: Thin film of
silicon with no structural order. Easy to deposit at a temperature less
than 300 C. Results in low energy pay back time.
Conventional solar panels: Made of single or polycrystalline silicon. Fragile and rigid, expensive processing steps, long energy pay back time.
UNI-SOLARÒ AMORPHOUS SILICON ALLOY
With our increasing awareness of environmental
impact of burning of fossil fuels, more attention is being focused on
renewable energy. Photovoltaic, the conversion of sunlight to
electricity, is a natural choice. Every day, a quantity of electricity
equivalent to the sum of world’s oil resources reaches the earth from
the sun. If only a fraction of this energy could be converted to
electricity, many of the world’s most pressing social and economic
problems could be alleviated.
photovoltaic or solar electricity has been used for quite some time, the
cost has been prohibitive. The low material cost associated with
thin-film amorphous silicon (a-Si) alloy technology makes it a very
attractive candidate for use in the manufacture of low-cost photovoltaic
modules. Unlike conventional single-crystal silicon solar cells that
need to be more than 100 micron thick to absorb the sunlight, a-Si alloy
cells are less than one micron thick.
The challenge has been how to improve the light-to-electricity
conversion efficiency of these solar cells and to develop a low-cost
manufacturing process. Building
on the pioneering proprietary materials, device and production
technology of its parent company, Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (ECD),
United Solar Systems Corp. (United Solar) is now the world leader in the
development of high efficiency a-Si alloy solar cells and modules, and
holds all the world records in a-Si alloy cell and module
light-to-electricity conversion efficiency. ECD also developed a unique roll-to-roll, low cost
manufacturing process, which is utilized by United Solar. The current
manufacturing plant of United Solar has an annual capacity of 5 MW. The
products are based on solar cells deposited on 5-mil thick roll of
stainless steel, and are lightweight, flexible and rugged. The new plant
in Auburn Hills, MI has a six-fold increase in its production capacity
to meet the increasing market demand. This plant of 30 MW annual
capacity is the largest thin-film photovoltaic manufacturing plant in
the world, and can provide electricity to 15000 homes every year.
improve cell efficiency, ECD/United Solar pioneered the development of
the multijunction, multibandgap cell structure.
In this structure, alloys of different bandgaps are stacked one
on top of the other to capture the wide range of solar photons. United
Solar manufactures these solar cells in a revolutionary way. 6 rolls of
stainless steel, each one-and-a half-mile long, move in a totally
automated way through a 280 foot long machine that deposits the nine
layers for the cell structure. At the end of the run that takes about 72
hours, you will have nine miles of solar cell! The rolls are next
processed in an automated assembly line to make a variety of products.
Solar produces a wide range of flexible and rigid products of different
sizes and power ratings (from 3 to 128 W) for a variety of applications.
The power output for the modules used for utility-type application is
backed by a 20-year warranty. All the products have gone through
extensive qualification testing and have obtained Underwriters
Laboratories (UL) approval. The roofing products of United Solar are
also receiving wide recognition. The UNI-SOLAR PV Shingle emulates the
asphalt shingle. It can be
installed on the roof deck in an overlapping manner similar to
conventional shingles. The
other roofing product is the Standing Seam PV metal roof, which
is a direct substitute for conventional metal roofing. The
laminates can be shipped from the warehouse in a roll form with an
adhesive at the back, and can be bonded on to the roof or the roofing
panel at the site.
Shingles on Roof - Covered Parking
using PV Roofing
the need of the armed forces to obtain lightweight and rugged battery
chargers, United Solar has introduced a new line of products, UNI-PAC,
that are foldable and portable. The no-glass structure of the products
makes them extremely rugged. The products can produce power output in
the range of 10 to 30 W, and can easily be carried as a backpack. Ideal
for 12 or 24 V applications, the PV panels have a specific weight of
about 15 W/kg.
the last few years, several new, attractive features of a-Si alloy
products have been established resulting in a wider acceptance of these
products. The power output from an a-Si alloy panel does not change much
with temperature whereas the conventional panels can lose 15% of the
rated power as the module temperature goes up under typical operating
condition. For the same
power rating, a-Si alloy PV products, therefore, perform much better
than the crystalline counterparts under normal outdoor conditions.
This is a significant advantage both for grid-connected and
battery charging applications. Independent studies carried out in Phoenix, Arizona by
Photocomm, Inc. on United Solar a-Si alloy panels show that the battery
charging capacity is 30% higher than that of a conventional panel of the
same power rating. These
advantages of a-Si alloy technology are not very widely known.
The UNI-SOLAR products also work very well under cloudy
conditions as confirmed by recent experiments in Europe. The superior
performance at high temperature and under cloudy condition allows the
UNI-SOLAR products to provide more energy for the same rated power than
the products based on competitive technology. Ruggedness and flexibility
are the other two advantages that the competing products lack.
mentioned earlier, United Solar makes a variety of products for
different applications. The framed products, US-116 and US-64 are ideal
for large-scale utility connected or stand alone power applications. For
the building-integrated market in which the PV is incorporated in the
roof or in the building, there are the shingles (SHR 17) or laminates (PVL
64 and PVL 128). These products can be used on the roof of buildings or
parking structures. United Solar also offers a series of complete
packaged systems called SmartRoofs providing power in the range of 500
to 4000 watts. There is a wide range of flexible products that are sold
for marine and other consumer applications. Since the products are
lightweight and rugged, these are receiving wide market acceptance.
Finally, United Solar also markets the UNI-KIT series of products that
are self-contained lighting systems used for rural households. Another
interesting product is the Solar Lantern that has use in both rural
areas and for camping needs. Further details about the products can be
found on United Solar web site http://www.uni-solar.com.
Uni-Kit Solar Lighting System - Flexible Solar Modules - Rigid
conclusion, United Solar has developed a unique technology to
manufacture high efficiency a-Si alloy solar panels at low cost.
The products coming out of the United Solar manufacturing plant
are lightweight and rugged, and can be used for a variety of
applications both in the developing and the developed world. There is a
growing awareness for energy independence, and UNI-SOLAR products
integrated with the roof together with Ovonic metal hydride battery (a
product manufactured by another ECD subsidiary) can provide that. The
products also can be grid-tied to reduce dependence on conventional
electricity; the solar panels provide electricity during the day with
the grid supplying the electrical needs during the night. The portable
products can be used for a variety of battery charging applications.