Thin Film Brief 16 – 29 April 2014

AVANCIS sells solar business to CNBM

Companies mentioned: Avancis, China National Building Materials Group Corporation, Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, University of Toledo, DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Solar Frontier, State University of New York College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering

AVANCIS sells solar business to CNBM

AVANCIS, a manufacturer of CIS solar modules, has been acquired by Chinese building materials and glass manufacturer CNBM (China National Building Materials Group Corporation).

The Chinese government is currently pursuing an ambitious programme for the development of solar energy and CNBM intends to become intensively involved. In this connection, the acquisition of AVANCIS will play a key role.

The new owner plans to restart production in Torgau under the same company name "AVANCIS GmbH".The transaction will close following the registration of the new company at the commercial court and the granting of the necessary approvals.

CNBM is planning to expand its solar module development and production. The further development of the AVANCIS technology is an essential prerequisite for the implementation of CNBM's expansion plans in the area of photovoltaic energy generation in Asia and Europe, according to a joint company statement.

The Chinese investor is intending to continue to operate the Tech Center in Torgau as well as the laboratory in Munich as research and development facilities and also, if possible, to restart operations of Fab 2 in Torgau. 

"I am delighted that with CNBM International Corporation we have found a strong investor who will help us to further advance our CIS technology with its promising future”, explained Dr. Franz Karg (CTO). “Together with the recently achieved new efficiency world record for encapsulated thin-film modules, this is another important milestone for the successful growth of our company.”

All 240 employees will be given the opportunity to be taken over by the new company. In this connection, the terms of employment with all the rights and obligations existing at the time of the transfer of business will be taken over by the new owner. The AVANCIS product warranties will remain unchanged and the new company will be the contact for previous and new customers.

CNBM was founded in 1984 and is a Chinese building materials group with a sales volume of approx. € 30.8bn and 180,000 employees in 2013.

In 2012 CTFSolar GmbH, a manufacturer of production plants for CdTe thin film solar modules with locations in Frankfurt and Dresden was taken over.

Chlorine explains thin-film mystery

Treating cadmium-telluride (CdTe) solar cell materials with cadmium-chloride improves their efficiency, but researchers have not fully understood why. Now, an atomic-scale examination of the thin-film solar cells led by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has answered this decades-long debate about the materials’ photovoltaic efficiency increase after treatment.

A research team from ORNL, the University of Toledo and DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory used electron microscopy and computational simulations to explore the physical origins of the unexplained treatment process. The results are published in Physical Review Letters (PRL).

Why is this important news for the solar industry? Thin-film CdTe solar cells are considered a potential rival to silicon-based photovoltaic systems because of their theoretically low cost per power output and ease of fabrication. Their comparatively low historical efficiency in converting sunlight into energy, however, has limited the technology’s widespread use, especially for home systems.

“We knew that chlorine was responsible for this magical effect, but we needed to find out where it went in the material’s structure,” Li said. “Only by understanding the structure can we understand what’s wrong in this solar cell -- why the efficiency is not high enough, and how can we push it further.”

By comparing the solar cells before and after chlorine treatment, the researchers realized that atom-scale grain boundaries were implicated in the enhanced performance. Grain boundaries are tiny defects that that normally act as roadblocks to efficiency, because they inhibit carrier collection which greatly reduces the solar cell power.

The research team’s finding, in addition to providing a long-awaited explanation, could be used to guide engineering of higher-efficiency CdTe solar cells. Controlling the grain boundary structure, says Li, is a new direction that could help raise the cell efficiencies closer to the theoretical maximum of 32 percent light-to-energy conversion. Currently, the record CdTe cell efficiency is only 20.4 percent.

“We think that if all the grain boundaries in a thin film material could be aligned in same direction, it could improve cell efficiency even further,” Li said.

Telsa partners with Hanergy

US electric automotive company Tesla Motors is partnering with Chinese thin-film solar specialist Hanergy Solar Group to produce supercharger carport stations in China. The company delivered its first nine electric sedans to customers in the country on that day.

Tesla said it has chosen the thin film flexible photovoltaic (PV) systems produced by Hanergy Solar Group, for its supercharger network plan in China.

Hanergy has delivered to Telsa two solar PV charging systems, which will be unveiled in Wangjing area of Beijing’s Chaoyang District and Shanghai International Automobile City soon.

News of the deal comes weeks after Hanergy reported it signed a memorandum of understanding with renewable energy asset management firm Greenbacker Renewable Energy Corporation for the funding of up to 126MW of PV projects in the US.

Solar Frontier MOU to bring Japan CIS tech to US

In a move for Solar Frontier  to establish production bases for its proprietary technology outside of Japan, the company’s home market that currently accounts for 100% of its production, is looking to the US market for technology collaboration.

Solar Frontier and the State University of New York College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering have signed a memorandum of understanding to conduct a technical and economic feasibility study for potential joint R&D and manufacturing of CIS thin-film modules in Buffalo, New York.

“Solar Frontier will continue to advance itself as a global leader in the solar energy segment, and establishing overseas production bases is at the core of our mid-term growth plan,” said Hiroto Tamai, President and Representative Director of Solar Frontier. “We are honored to work with the CNSE to study the potential for joint R&D and manufacturing of our proprietary CIS technology in New York State.”

CNSE is a global education, research, development, and technology deployment resource supporting New York’s job creation and growth agenda for emerging high-tech industries. CNSE has made more than $20bn in high-tech investments since its foundation in 2004, representing the world's most advanced university-driven research enterprise. CNSE’s Solar Energy Development Center in Halfmoon provides a prototyping and demonstration line for next-generation CIGS thin-film solar cells and supports CNSE’s leadership of the U.S. Photovoltaic Manufacturing Consortium (PVMC).

GE thin film assets up for sale in May auction

Hilco Industrial has reported that it will run an online auction sale of many critical assets from the former GE Solar facility located in Aurora and Arvada, Colorado. The offering will include late model production, test equipment, support and facility equipment.  The online sale begins on 8 May, 2014.

The former GE Solar operation was originally developed for Primestar Solar, which GE acquired in 2011. Primestar Solar developed a leading process for the production of thin film CdTe on commercial glass.  The offering presents a unique opportunity for companies in PV, PCB, Semiconductor, Glass, Electronics, and general industrial production to purchase exceptionally well maintained, late model, premier brand equipment.