MUNICH, Germany An initiative of the German government and several industry heavyweights will invest heavily in the development of organic photovoltaics (OPV). The initiative targets at lowering the price for solar cells as well as to widening their application range.
The initiative was introduced Wednesday (June 27) in Frankfurt. Within the initiative, the German research ministry announced to spend 60 million (about $80 million) over five years for research activities aiming at developing OPV materials and process technology. The enterprises participating in the initiative - chemical giant BASF, Bosch group, pharmaceuticals company Merck KGaA which also produces LCD raw materials, and glass manufacturer Schott AG - will invest an additional sum of up to 300 million for research and development on the same topic, distributed over ten years.
Bosch and BASF will launch collaborative efforts to make solar cell production more cost-effective. "While today one spare meter of solar panel area costs about 350, organic PV material will help to drive the price down to below 100," explained Bosch research manager Gerhard Felten.
At the event, research minister Annette Schavan pledged to invest in research activities to promote the innovative technology. "The initiative to promote organic photovoltaics is an example of how we combine our strengths to invest in new technologies", she said.
In 2006, photovoltaic modules had a global market volume of 8 billion, according to a joint press release of the initiative. The segment is expected to grow by more than 20 percent annually over the next 12 years.
To further develop the new technology, BASF and Bosch announced to join research works at Dresden-based startup Heliatek GmbH. Through its venture capital arm BASF Venture Capital, the chemical giant and Robert Bosch GmbH invest 1.6 million each. Further investors are Wellington Partners and the High-Tech Gruenderfonds, a VC unit run jointly by the German government and industry.
Heliatek is developing a roll-to-roll production process to manufacture large organic solar modules. BASF's OPV activities presently focus on materials with high thermal and photochemical stability which eventually could replace silicon in solar cells.