LONDON Solar energy products supplier Q-Cells AG, which is claimed to be the second biggest manufacturer of mono- and polycrystalline silicon solar cells in the world, has agreed to invest €7 million (about $9.0 million) in Swiss company VHF Technologies SA, which trades as Flexcell.
Flexcell (Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland) said it wants to use the money to industrialize a new photovoltaic technology. Q-Cells AG (Thalheim, Germany), with an annual production capacity
of 280-Megawatts, has invested in Flexcell as an opportunity in the field of flexible thin-film technologies.
Q-Cells’ investment in Flexcell is earmarked to build an industrial production line in Yverdon with an annual production capacity of 2-megawatts. The increase in the production capacity will enable the company to respond to requests for photovoltaic building components.
Under the terms of the investment Q-Cells has the option to increase its stake in Flexcell to 51 percent on the condition that Flexcell builds a factory with multiple 2-megawatt capacity production lines.
Flexcell, founded in February 2000, has further developed a plasma process originally invented at the Institute for Micro Technology (IMT) at the University of Neuchatel. The process allows the deposition of amorphous silicon on rolls of flexible plastic film.
This use of amorphous silicon is one of the key advantages of these flexible solar cells because it means they are not dependant on the supply of mono- and polycrystalline silicon, two prepared materials that are used in the production of crystalline silicon solar cells. A shortage of manufacturing-grade polysilicon is predicted as solar cell demand is set to compete with integrated circuit demand in the next few years (see June 29 story).
Flexcell claimed that because of its use amorphous silicon solar modules could be produced using its technology at a competitive price and could be incorporated into almost any roofing component, including such things as corrugated tiles.