U.S. Air Force Awards $11.5 M for Solar PV

Uni-Solar, a wholly owned subsidiary of Energy Conversion Devices, Inc., was awarded a US$11.5 million from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico (AFRL). The 18-month contract is for the development of new solar cell technology to be used in space and airship vehicles addressing defense and homeland security applications. AFRL has an option to fund the company an additional US$7.8 million.

Auburn Hills, Michigan – May 29, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] The contract builds upon the success of earlier contracts with the Air Force and will fund research activities to develop ultra-lightweight solar arrays as the next-generation solar power technology for Air Force missions using advanced materials and innovative manufacturing technology. The contract will be administered by the Advanced Space Power Generation Group in the Space Vehicles Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory. The Uni-Solar triple-junction modules, originally developed for terrestrial applications, are made of amorphous silicon based thin-film alloys which are deposited on a 5-mil flexible stainless steel substrate. By using a polymeric or a thinner stainless substrate, new space cells will be developed that have a specific power density greater than 600 watts per kilogram (W/kg). This is significantly higher than what is currently available. A high specific power density is required for airship application and, considering the high launching cost of satellites, lightweight cells also are economically attractive for space application. Furthermore, the radiation hardness and superior high-temperature performance of amorphous silicon make it an attractive material for space application. “Our thin-film triple-junction products have received wide recognition for terrestrial applications and have proven to be especially promising for space use as well,” said S.R. Ovshinsky, president and CEO of ECD and chairman and CEO of Uni-Solar. “In 1998, Uni-Solar’s space solar modules were successfully installed on the MIR Space Station. After 19 months and 252 million miles in space, the modules looked great and performed just as excellently as they did when on MIR. This program is important in expanding our product portfolio for space, stratospheric and terrestrial applications as well.” “There is a growing need for lightweight, flexible and durable solar arrays on satellites and airships,” said Subhendu Guha, President and Chief Operating Officer of Uni-Solar. “We are delighted to work with the Air Force to develop products for this rapidly expanding market. In addition to having a technology and product uniquely suited for these applications, we have a state-of-the-art 30 MW manufacturing facility that allows us to appropriately satisfy the demands of our customers in the terrestrial market.” ECD and Uni-Solar hold the basic patents covering the continuous roll-to-roll manufacturing of thin-film amorphous silicon alloy multi-junction solar cells and related products. Uni-Solar offers a line of solar electric roofing panels, which are, flexible, lightweight and architecturally attractive, said he company.
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