31 March 2010
One month after announcing the formation of a joint venture in China to produce equipment and materials for use in making solar cells, Natcore Technology Inc. is pleased to announce that it has executed a letter of intent to purchase Vanguard Solar, Inc.
Vanguard Solar, Inc. is a private firm controlling key intellectual property in the field of solar energy. Vanguard has been focused on the development of a flexible, thin-film photovoltaic material capable of silicon solar cell-like efficiency performance potentially at one tenth the manufacturing cost and one twentieth the capital investment.
Vanguard uses a proprietary chemical bath process similar to Natcore's liquid phase deposition (LPD) technology, although Vanguard is growing II-VI compound semiconductor thin films on carbon nanotubes at room temperature and ambient pressure, while Natcore has thus far concentrated on growing silicon dioxide films on silicon substrates.
The first-generation products from Vanguard's method could produce 15%-16% efficiencies at module costs of 60 cents to 70 cents per watt. It is anticipated that second-generation technology could achieve 20% efficiencies at even lower costs per watt. The investment for production facilities is projected as low as $10 million to $15 million per 100-megawatt to 150-megawatt production capability, as compared with current costs of as much as $250 million for standard solar-cell production facilities. Vanguard's production equipment would be designed for insertion into an existing roll-to-roll film-coating line of the sort that has been displaced by the emergence of digital photography. All production materials are widely available and dramatically cheaper than silicon and other thin film systems. If successfully developed, the process would enable a very cost-efficient production capability in large-scale facilities.
Two of Vanguard's founders and shareholders are Professor Andrew Barron and Dr. Dennis Flood, both of whom are scientific founders of Natcore. It was collectively felt that the acquisition of Vanguard Solar and the integration of its technology into Natcore's intellectual property portfolio would continue to expand the depth and breadth of Natcore's impact on the solar industry.
"We are particularly excited about this acquisition, because it represents another compelling outgrowth of Prof. Barron's foundational work in chemical processes that mimic materials growth in nature," says Chuck Provini, Natcore's President and CEO. "In fact, the very name of our company, being a combination of 'nature' and 'core,' was chosen to reflect this remarkable synthesis of natural processes, such as the growth of an abalone shell, that grow extraordinary materials in widely varied environments. By employing ultra-pure chemicals and modern materials science, Prof. Barron has been able to combine the best of man and nature."
Brien Lundin, Natcore's Chairman, notes that, "While we remain focused and committed to advancing our LPD technology for anti-reflective (AR) films and super-efficient tandem solar cells, the acquisition of Vanguard Solar provides significant additional value to our intellectual property portfolio. Meanwhile, our work to advance our LPD technology, and to finalize our joint venture agreement with our Chinese partners for the design and sale of AR-growth equipment, continues on schedule. We expect to provide more-detailed updates in the very near future."
Natcore Technology is the exclusive licensee, from Rice University, of a thin-film growth technology enabling room-temperature growth of various silicon oxides on silicon wafers in a liquid phase deposition (LPD) process. Although the implications of this discovery for semiconductors and fiber optics are significant and wide-ranging, the technology has immediate and compelling applications in the solar sector. Specifically, the Company's LPD process could enable silicon solar cell manufacturers to significantly reduce manufacturing costs and increase throughput, and has the potential to allow, for the first time, mass manufacturing of super-efficient (30%+) tandem solar cells with double the power output of today's most efficient devices.