Shell Renewables and Akzo Nobel have signed an agreement to develop a low-cost process to mass-produce flexible solar panels.ARNHEM, The Netherlands, NL, 2001-11-06 [SolarAccess.com] Currently, solar panels are manufactured from expensive materials such as silicon, glass and metals, using labour intensive methods. The new process to be tested in Arnhem uses mass-production methods to apply a special coating that is 20 times thinner than a human hair and virtually continuously to rolls of flexible foil substrates. “We believe that solar power is going to be one of the fastest-growing primary sources of energy,” says Shell Solar COO Philippe de Renzy Martin. The market for PV power is forecast to grow 25 percent a year, but faster and cheaper production methods could stimulate wider use by allowing cost effective integration into existing solar products such as roofing and wall materials, as well as opening up other applications. To speed development, Akzo Nobel and Shell are participants in a parallel program with the Technical Universities of Delft and Eindhoven, the Utrecht University, The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, and Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands. The Dutch government Energy Ecology & Technology program, NOVEM, and the European Union, are supporting the program. Akzo Nobel, based in the Netherlands, produces healthcare products, coatings and chemicals and employs 67,500 people in 75 countries. Shell Renewables was set up in 1997 to develop commercial opportunities of renewable energy. Earlier this year, Shell entered a joint venture with Siemens Solar.