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Technology - Solar Energy

P. S. Raghavan
04/22/2004

(This article is sponsored by The Boston Group)

“Clean energy” is attracting more and more interests, which in turn exert cost pressure on photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers for more efficient solar panel production due to the competitive situation. The field of PV—the direct conversion of sunlight to electricity—has evolved at an incredible pace over the past several decades. PV was recognized as an important source of space power in the 1950s, and terrestrial PV development began in response to the 1970s oil crises. Over the past 30 years, PV researchers have developed new materials, devices, and fabrication approaches, improved device efficiency and reliability, and lowered module and system costs.

In spite of stiff competition from other materials and technologies, crystalline silicon has been the champion of the PV industry, providing an average growth of greater than 30%/yr in the last six years, and is likely to be the mainstay for the near term. The recent US Photovoltaics (PV) Industry Roadmap predicts an impressive ~25% annual growth rate in PV for the next 2 decades, resulting in an annual productivity of ~17 GW/yr. worldwide by 2020, with cumulative shipments approaching 88 GW.

However, the longevity of c-Si technology to continue as a widespread energy alternative will be partly determined by its ability to continually improve in cost per watt terms.

GT Solar Technologies, Inc., A division of GT Equipment Technologies, has been working with the eyes set on the new electronic era on the development of the third generation crystal growth systems for the production of large volume multicrystalline silicon crystals production, and equipment for subsequent processing of wafers into solar cells.

GTi has a strong R&D and Engineering departments whose objective is to develop cost-efficient processes for solar cell manufacturing and to commercialize its proprietary technologies. The major cost factor in producing PV modules is the cost associated with producing silicon wafers. Based on our rigorous cost analysis model the current module manufacturing cost is $1.98/W for 325-ìm thick wafers, 13.5% efficient cells, $25/kg polysilicon, and 25 MW annual production capacity. The wafer, cell and module assembly costs are $1.04/watt, 0.34/watt and 0.60/watt respectively. Through the yesteryear experience gained, GTi scientists have been working on the development of a new generation systems for growing multi-crystalline silicon and on wafer, cell and module cost reduction factors and our aim is to bring the cost to $1.00/Watt.

Dr.Kedar P. Gupta and Jonathan Talbott, two well renowned technologists founded the company as a privately held Schedule C corporation in 1994 is located in a 60,000 sq.ft facility in Merrimack, New Hampshire and it is stepping into its 11 th successful year.

(Dr. P.S. Raghavan is the Process Development Manager with GT Solar Technologies, Inc.) )

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