Building and Solar Companies Collaborate on Solar Slates

A British home building company, Persimmon Homes, has reached an agreement with a leading solar cell manufacturer so that it can market its first commercial houses fitted with solar roofs.

OXFORD, England, UK, 2001-10-29 [] Intersolar will supply PV cells that resemble natural roof slates to Persimmon, which will build the first 20 solar homes at a new development near Bedford. Intersolar’s roofs are three times more expensive than a standard slate or tiled roof, but it hopes to reduce costs by increasing electricity generation. Intersolar says it has the ability to manufacture solar cells at low cost, because it has developed a unique High Rate Deposition process. The company claims its PlateStructure process, which deposits thin film solar cells on an insulating substrate, allows a major advantage when interconnecting cells in series. This interconnection is achieved by laser isolation of each active layer after it is deposited, and before the next deposition stage. These isolation grooves are offset slightly from each other, so that the rear contact of one cell connects to the front contact of the neighbouring cell through the isolation groove of the silicon layer. Virtually all solar cells need to be connected in series to achieve a useful operating voltage but for most types, these connections need to be made manually (or using robots) as an expensive later process. The solar homes will receive funding from the British Department of Trade & Industry as part of a multi-million pound government commitment to support solar roof installations.