Solar

CNSE launches CIGS prototyping center

UAlbany’s CNSE introduced its Solar Energy Development Center in Halfmoon, NY. The Center will focus on developing CIGS solar cell manufacturing technologies with reduced risk and capital investment for individual companies.

October 24, 2011 — The College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) of the University at Albany (UAlbany) introduced its Solar Energy Development Center in Halfmoon, NY, part of CNSE’s green energy initiative. The Center will focus on developing CIGS solar cell manufacturing technologies with reduced risk and capital investment for individual companies.

The Solar Energy Development Center features a 100kW prototyping and demonstration line producing copper/indium/gallium/selenide (CIGS) thin film solar cells on glass and flex substrates. The pilot line at the center will enable proof-of-concept prototyping, including materials and new process evaluations.

The CNSE Solar Energy Development Center will also support the $300+ million public-private US Photovoltaic Manufacturing Consortium. The PVMC, headquartered at CNSE, is a partnership between CNSE and SEMATECH with 40+ solar companies and organizations, created under the US Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative.

At a CNSE talk in late September, Pradeep Haldar from CNSE’s PVMC noted concerns that China is taking over the solar PV manufacturing base, and recalled similar outcry within the semiconductor industry in the 1970s/80s about Japan “eating our lunch” — which spurred the formation of SEMATECH. The key, now as then, is to focus on next-generation technologies and not commmodity products, he said. CIGS is the “simplest” yet nonstandardized technology, with high opportunites and low cost-of-ownership (estimated ~$1.43/W assuming 600MW capacity), and in which the US can make an impact with a strong research base and “immediate potential for jobs.” Other CIGS efforts have addressed utility and building-applied (rigid and curtain wall), but Haldar says there are other areas “being missed out on,” from portable flexible CIGS devices to building-applied membranes and integrated roof tiles.

Challenges remain with CIGS, though, that the Center will address: from understanding materials and processing (materials, interfaces/impurities, deposition/processing parameters) to reliability testing and a “scientific understanding of degradation,” to bringing up high-performance high-volume tools and real-time inline metrology — all underpinned with roadmaps, standards, protocols, and certification. PVMC sees a buildout to a 10MW facility within 6-24 months from the pilot line.

The Center, on the site of a former Veeco facility, will retain 17 jobs, with the opportunity to grow the workforce. Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-20) and CNSE SVP and CEO Dr. Alain Kaloyeros announced the new center. Gibson said CNSE’s investment puts the upstate NY region “at the forefront of research into clean energy technologies.” Saratoga County Economic Development Corporation President Dennis Brobston expresed a hope that leading-edge CIGS manufacturers developing prototypes at the Center will locate manufacturing in the area.

Kaloyeros credited efforts from Congressman Chris Gibson and Senator Charles Schumer with bringing more clean energy research initiatives to NY’s Capital Region.
 
The UAlbany CNSE is a university-driven research enterprise dedicated to education, research, development and deployment in the emerging disciplines of nanoscience, nanoengineering, nanobioscience and nanoeconomics. For information, visit www.cnse.albany.edu.

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