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Wales to host first Dye Sensitized Solar Cell plant

October 18, 2006

John Walko / EE Times Europe

LONDON ? A recently established renewable energy company, G24 Innovations Ltd, is planning to build the first plant to make dye sensitized solar cells (DSSC) on a commercial scale at a facility in Cardiff, Wales . The eventual investment into producing the so called 'solar foils' could be between £60 million and £75 million and the project could create 300 jobs.

"We have the funds for the first phase of the project, which is to do a pilot plant and line capable of a capacity of about 25 Megawatts as well as install a coater. That would be an investment of about £20 million and be ready by early next year. The second phase would be substantially more ambitious and have a capacity of up to 200 Megawatts, and this would be ready by 2008," Paul Turney, CEO of G24 Innovations told EE Times Europe .

Turney said that while the project has "strong support" from the Welsh Assembly Government and local agencies, "we have not sought any financial assistance or grants as we need to move forward quickly and that may have held us back a little." He added the first phase is already on track and producing pilot quantities of the foils.

The technology for making the dye-sensitized solar cells come from a licensing deal with Konarka Technologies Inc (Lowell, Mass.), a specialist in photovoltaic technologies, and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne. The original invention of the DSSC was done at the EPFL by Professor Michael Graetzel and his team in the late 1980s, and the technology has subsequently been enhanced by engineers at Konarka.

Much of the laminating machinery for the facility will come from Solarcoating Machinery GmbH (Dormagen, Germany), a spin off from Coatema Coating Machinery GmbH.

G24 Innovations' main backer is Renewable Capital, an investment and incubator firm specializing in green energy projects with headquarters Delaware, with minority shareholdings from EPFL, Konarka Technologies and Solarcoating.

DSSC is said to use a wider range of light spectrum than conventional solar cells, and thus generate power from all visible light sources and at relatively low levels of light intensity. The photovoltaic material produces energy through a process that Turney likens to photosynthesis in plants.

The DSSC modules are manufactured by printing a thin layer of titanium dioxide on to a layer of film and then, through the use of nanotechnology, further manipulating the film's atoms and molecules so as to generate electricity.

The process involves 'roll-to-roll' equipment similar to that used to make textiles and photographic films which is said to reduce costs dramatically compared with that for making traditional solar cells.

"Unlike traditional solar cells, we do not use silicon or heavy metals and the resulting material is perhaps a fiftieth the weight of normal solar cells," said Turney.

He added: "With the tremendous global explosion in the use of mobile electronic devices, there is a huge untapped market for our ground breaking technology."

Initial target markets for the DSSC include mobile phone chargers, especially for developing countries, and as a power source for consumer products such as MP3 players, laptops and handheld game consoles. The company will also target applications such as smart textiles and as the basis for novel building-integrated products that could provide the energy source for a part of a building.
Posted by Kuppuswamy Kalyanasundaram on Thursday 19 October 2006 at 15:08