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15 June 2015

Flisom closes fourth funding round with $10.7m more from Tata

Flisom AG of Dübendorf, Zurich, which was spun off from the Laboratory of Solid State Physics of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) in 2005 to develop manufacturing of flexible thin-film copper indium gallium (di)selenide (CIGS) solar modules, has closed its fourth round of funding with a further CHF10m (about $10.7m or €9.5m) from existing India-based strategic investor Tata group (following an earlier investment of CHF42.5m, or about $45.5m, in 2013). The new funding comes on the eve of the inauguration of Flisom's pilot-production plant in Niederhasli-Zurich, which has an annual capacity of 15MW.

Over the last few years Flisom has improved the design of its roll-to-roll manufacturing equipment for processing and scaled them up from 50cm- to 1m-wide rolls – which is claimed to be an unprecedented scale of manufacturing capability for continuous processing of monolithically interconnected flexible CIGS solar modules on plastic foil.

"We appreciate the systematic approach towards innovation and the continuous hard work of Flisom's team in developing a unique manufacturing plant, while partnering with Empa [the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology], one of the world's leading labs, with several efficiency-related records for flexible solar cells," comments Tata Industries' executive director K.R.S. Jamwal. "This investment marks Tata group's interest in next-generation technology for the solar photovoltaic industry," he adds.

"With the investment received in 2013, Flisom refurbished an old manufacturing building of 4500m2 ground area in Niederhasli, in the outskirts of Zurich, to install all the needed machines for solar module manufacturing on 1m wide rolls," says Flisom's chief operating officer Dr Sudheer Kumar. "At the same time, Flisom continued technology development on 50cm-wide rolls at its Dübendorf plant, located on the campus of Empa," he adds.

"After the successful installation of machines and other factory infrastructure in Niederhasli, the next step is to transfer the process know-how on these high-tech machines using specifically customized designs," says CEO Ulfert Rühle. "Some of the machines are based on many years of development by experts, innovative proprietary designs and complex engineering, making Flisom's machines unique for achieving cost and performance efficiency targets," he claims.

"The 15MW plant will serve as a proven blueprint for establishing larger production plants having a production capacity greater than 100MW as well as low capital and operating expenditures," Rühle continues. "Flisom has been working steadily towards lowering the costs of manufacturing of flexible solar modules."

Flisom reckons that its lightweight, robust products and systems could lower the price of solar electricity due to low material usage, economic production technology, and reduced storage, transportation and installation costs. Markets addressable by its flexible solar module manufacturing technology include utility-scale solar farms, building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), building-applied photovoltaics (BAPV), transportation and portable power.

Empa and Flisom have been cooperating for a number of years to develop a unique industrial-scale production platform for CIGS solar modules. "Scale-up for large-area solar modules and adapting these complex innovative processes for industrial manufacturability is quite a challenge and requires close collaboration between research labs and industrial partners for transferring research excellence to industrial usability," says Empa board member Pierangelo Groening (head of the Department of Advanced Materials and Surfaces). "For industrial partners such as Flisom, we provide support on different topics to enable industrial development of novel and innovative concepts, which often require sophisticated analytical tools and skilled experts," he adds.

"We are pleased that Empa's innovations in the field of renewable energy, especially in photovoltaics, are being transferred to industry," says Empa's CEO Gian-Luca Bona. "This example perfectly illustrates Empa's role as a bridge between research and practical applications."

"Flisom also thanks Swiss federal and European funding agencies for their continuous support," notes Rühle. "Besides the technological progress, the number of employees during the last two years has gone up to more than 55 now, and of course more employment opportunities for technically skilled persons are open for the production plant in Niederhasli."  

See related items:

Flisom raises funding to ramp up 15MW flexible CIGS module production plant

Empa raises efficiency record for flexible CIGS thin-film solar cells from 18.7% to 20.4%

Tags: Empa Flexible CIGS

Visit: www.flisom.ch

Visit: www.empa.ch

Visit: www.tata.com

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