8 August 2013
IQE’s CPV materials qualified for high-volume production by Solar Junction
Epiwafer foundry and substrate maker IQE plc of Cardiff, Wales, UK says that its strategic partner Solar Junction Corp of San Jose, CA, USA, which makes III-V multi-junction solar cells for concentrated photovoltaics (CPV) based on dilute-nitride materials, has completed the process transfer and full qualification of IQE’s epitaxial materials for production-ready, high-volume manufacturing.
Qualification required extensive validation of IQE’s manufacturing processes, product quality and reliability. Solar Junction is now production-ready and at an advanced stage in qualifying its cells with leading global CPV systems makers. Solar Junction expects to receive initial high-volume orders over the coming months.
As a result of a joint development agreement in February with Solar Junction, Amonix Inc of Seal Beach, CA, USA (said to be the leading worldwide installer of CPV systems) is already testing solar cells produced with IQE epitaxy and observing improved performance.
“The qualification of our production-ready 42% median efficiency solar cells produced by IQE and our new fabrication line could not have come at a better time for Solar Junction and the CPV market,” reckons Solar Junction’s VP of business development Jeff Allen. “Solar Junction’s key customers are highly impressed with the 2+% cell efficiency advantage over our competitor’s cells, which translates to an estimated reduction in total installed CPV system cost of approximately 5%,” he adds, citing rapid adoption of the firm’s technology in the USA, China and Middle East.
A recent independent industry report estimates that the target market for CPV will exceed 5GW over the next few years, with more than 750MW to be installed by 2015.
Initial deployment will be in southwestern USA, southern Europe around the Mediterranean, Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA), southern Africa, Chile, Australia and China.
“Successful qualification is attributable to the close partnership of the team responsible, from Solar Junction and IQE, over the past 12 months,” says Solar Junction’s chief executive Dr Vijit Sabnis. “The IQE epitaxial materials are fabricated at Solar Junction’s 4” and 6” production facility, partially funded by the US Department of Energy SUNPATH contract, in Silicon Valley,” he adds. “Solar cells are currently out for independent third-party verification of efficiency results, with performance anticipated to be equivalent to that produced by our internal pilot line.”
IQE says that Solar Junction’s qualification continues to demonstrate the value of its dilute nitride materials. In October 2012, Solar Junction achieved record solar energy conversion efficiency of 44% for a standard 3J cell at a concentration of 942 suns.
“Qualification of IQE’s production-scale epiwafers for CPV marks a key milestone in bringing Solar Junction's advanced technology to market,” comments IQE’s chief executive Dr Drew Nelson. “Median efficiencies from our large-volume 4” and 6” platforms are at least as good as have been previously achieved in small-scale demonstrations,” he adds. “The performance and manufacturing advantages of Solar Junction’s 3J solar cell technology will accelerate adoption of CPV and position IQE to become the key epiwafer supplier to the global utility-scale CPV solar market,” he believes. “These achievements clearly demonstrate the success of our strategy to invest in Solar Junction and enter into an exclusive, worldwide license for the technology.”