Q-Cells Invests in CIGS Thin-Film Technology

Nov.27.06 | About: Global PVQ (QCLSF)
Q-Cells AG (OTCPK:QCLSF), the world's second-largest manufacturer of solar cells, is investing in CIGS thin-film technology to complement its current technology portfolio. Q-Cells is joining forces with Solibro AB from Uppsala, Sweden, to set up a joint venture under the name of Solibro GmbH, in which Q-Cells will hold a share of 67.5%.

Solibro GmbH will commercialize the copper indium gallium di-selenide [CIGS] thin-film technology developed in Sweden by Solibro AB. For this purpose there are plans to build an initial factory in Thalheim, which will have an annual production capacity of 25 to 30 MWp.

CIGS technology has several benefits:

• It does not require any silicon
• It has the potential of very high module efficiencies, compared to other thin film technologies, exceeding 12% in industrial production.
• The aesthetic appearance of the black modules also makes them well suited for integration into the facades and roofs of buildings.

Solibro AB is a spin-off from the widely renowned CIGS research group at the University of Uppsala’s Ångström Solar Center with a unique technology developed with the support from the Swedish Energy Agency.
CIGS technology
At its pilot line in Uppsala, Solibro processes solar active CIGS layers on glass substrates of industrial size. Using these coated substrates, modules with efficiencies exceeding 11.5% (independently confirmed) have been achieved. Based on a closely related technology, the affiliated research group at the Ångström Solar Center has realized efficiencies of up to 16.6% (minimodules) and 18.5% (solar cells) under laboratory conditions.

Q-Cells AG will initially pay Solibro AB € 4 million (US$5.2 million) for its 67.5% share and € 20 million (US$26.2 million) against the achievement of technological milestones, and has committed € 60 million (US$78.5 million) to the joint venture. The joint venture is expected to take a decision on the construction of the first production site in Thalheim by mid 2007. The amount of € 60 million will then be invested in this first stage of expansion.

The core business of Q-Cells AG is the development, production and sale of solar cells made of mono- and multicrystalline silicon. They are the second largest producer of solar cells (behind Sharp) and the largest independent producer. By the end of 2006 their annual capacity should be 336 MWp, with construction already started on an additional 96 MWp of capacity, scheduled to be operational by the end of 2007.

The full press release can be found here.

It seems that CIGS technology is really taking roots. In addition to Q-Cells, Daystar, Global Solar, HelioVolt, Konarka, Miasole, and Nanosolar are all betting on this technology to produce the lowest cost solar cells ($/W), because it does not use silicon and is suitable for low cost production.