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

If you have any questions please contact Michael Coates at (408) 399-9081 or Nate Purpura at (805) 541-0477.

United Solar Systems and Bekaert ECD Solar Systems Announce the Inauguration of Their Advanced $55 Million Solar Cell Manufacturing Plant

Major expansion is expected to increase U.S. solar production capacity by 20 percent

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, Mich.

The 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.

The 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 industrial customers.

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.”

Subhendu 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.”

In 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 future.”

Guy 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 plant”.

“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).

ECD 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 fuels.

Subhendu Guha

President, United Solar and Bekaert ECD



United 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

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 cells or internal combustion engines or as an enhancement or replacement for any type of hydrocarbon fuel.  ECD designs and builds manufacturing machinery that incorporates its proprietary production processes, maintains ongoing research and development programs to continually improve its products, and develops new applications for its technologies.  ECD holds the basic patents in its fields.  ECD’s web site address is

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

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.


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

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.


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.

Although 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.

To 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.

United 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.

PV Shingles on Roof - Covered Parking using PV Roofing

Recognizing 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.

During 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.

As 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

Uni-Kit Solar Lighting System - Flexible Solar Modules - Rigid Power Modules

In 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.