Crystalline solar cell market grew 39 percent in 2007, says Gartner

April 7, 2008

PVTech : The crystalline silicon solar cell market had another robust year, according to figures from Gartner, Inc. The sector saw revenues increase 39 percent in 2007 compared with 2006, resulting in a 42 percent CAGR from 2004 through 2007. Ongoing demand in 2008 is expected with solar silicon consumption expected to exceed that of electronic semiconductor consumption for the first time, Gartner sai.

Crystalline silicon solar cell leaders were able to secure silicon material sufficiently for strong growth in 2007, though short supply actually hampered growth rates. Gartner noted that Q-Cells took the number one slot for the first time as Sharp and other Japanese manufacturers struggled to secure polysilicon supplies. Q-Cells now holds 17.2 percent of the market with revenues climbing 70 percent in 2007 compared to 2006…


Konarka announces first-ever demonstration of ink-jet printed solar cells

March 4, 2008, via Business Wire: Konarka Technologies, Inc., an innovator in development and commercialization of Power Plastic®, a material that converts light to energy, today announced the company successfully conducted the first-ever demonstration of manufacturing solar cells by highly efficient inkjet printing. The company discusses and analyzes the performance of highly efficient inkjet printed organic bulk heterojunction solar cells in a paper recently published in Advanced Materials, entitled, “High Photovoltaic Performance of Inkjet Printed Polymer:Fullerene Blends” by Dr. Stelios A. Choulis, Claudia N. Hoth, Dr. Pavel Schilinsky and Dr. Christoph J. Brabec, all of Konarka.

“Demonstrating the use of inkjet printing technology as a fabrication tool for highly efficient solar cells and sensors with small area requirements is a major milestone,” commented Rick Hess, president and CEO at Konarka. “This essential breakthrough in the field of printed solar cells positions Konarka as an emerging leader in printed photovoltaics.”

Inkjet printing is a commonly used technique for controlled deposition of solutions of functional materials in specific locations on a substrate and can provide easy and fast deposition of polymer films over a large area. The demonstration confirms that organic solar cells can be processed with printing technologies with little or no loss compared to “clean room” semiconductor technologies such as spin coating. The most popular printing tool for organic electronics, inkjet printing could become a smart tool to manufacturer solar cells with multiple colors and patterns for lower power requirement products, like indoor or sensor applications. Inkjet printing is considered very promising because the polymer devices can be fabricated very easily because of the compatibility with various substrates and it does not require additional patterning.

Solarcentury one of the "Best 100 Companies"

March 3, 2008

The Times (UK) names Solarcentury as one of the “Best 100 Companies”: The 21st century must be the solar century, according to this renewable energy company. Although the firm is not yet in profit, staff feel sunny about the company that has powered up the Eden Project in Cornwall and the CIS Tower in Manchester. Solarcentury designs and supplies solar technology for commercial and residential buildings, and has installed more than 500 large-scale projects since it was founded in 1998.

The firm is based in London, with two other sites, and has 92 employees, typically sales staff. Four in 10 staff earn more than £35,000 a year and they have a flexible workplace. People can wear their sunnies to work, with a dress-down code, and they all work flexitime and occasionally from home. Staff can “buy” three extra days of holiday and can carry over five of their 25-day allowance to the following year. After five years, they get a paid sabbatical, which some have used to volunteer for the company charity, SolarAid, in Africa, to which the firm has donated £34,000. Solarcentury has pledged to give 5% of pretax profits when it moves into the black.

Staff agree the organisation makes the world a better place, the 96% positive score here is the second highest. Everyone apart from the four shareholders of the private firm is eligible for performance- and profit-related pay, private healthcare including families, childcare vouchers, a car allowance, non-contributory pension and free gym membership.

Jeremy Leggett, chief executive and founder, is an inspiration (89%) and runs the firm on sound principles (93%). Training programmes and awaydays include a two-day retreat each year. The management team, named after the sun god Apollo, gives a weekly update online. People think the company has star quality. They are excited about where it is going (91%), feel they can make a valuable contribution (89%) and say it does a lot to preserve the environment (86%).

3Tier signs multiple contracts for FirstLook assessment

February 28, 2008

North American Windpower: 3TIER, an independent provider of wind, solar and hydro power assessment and power forecasting, has announced that seven companies have signed contracts worth more than $400,000 within the last three months for the company’s FirstLook assessment for wind.

“FirstLook simplifies and shortens a traditionally complex assessment process, but still delivers the thorough, detailed information we need to move quickly on a project,” says Sean Finnerty, senior vice president of Competitive Power Ventures (CPV). CPV, a wind developer with projects in the U.S. and Canada, says it uses the FirstLook tool and reports to identify potential sites and obtain the information they need to acquire land for their projects.

Many of the FirstLook contracts are bundled deals in which the companies are purchasing multiple reports for a discounted price. Individual FirstLook Professional reports cost $2,500.

Solar mortgage launched

February 25, 2008

U-TV (Ireland): A UK first was made today when a bank launched substantially discounted mortgage borrowing for those who install solar power. The `Solar Mortgage` from the Ulster Bank will do its bit for climate change and reducing the carbon footprint of householders.

It will offer a discount of 50% off the bank`s variable rate for three years, to both new and existing customers, to cover the cost of purchasing and installing the latest solar photvoltaic [PV] technology. The bank has teamed up with leading solar energy company, Solarcentury and the package includes full management of supply and installation and support of the customer through any building control, planning or grant applications.

Ulster Bank head of mortgages , Derek Wilson, said: “This new product will help make installation of solar panels much more affordable and cost effective and provides reassurance to homeowners because the whole process is managed by a pre-approved, high quality supplier and installer.”

Derry Newman, chief executive of Solarcentury, said they were delighted to be working with the bank on the new offering which made solar power more accessible and affordable. “Solar photovoltaic technology is a clean, reliable and readily available alternative to fossil fuels, which generates clean electricity, producing power directly from daylight,” he said.

Dr Andy McCrea, director of Northern Ireland`s renewable energy champion, Action Renewables, welcomed the new mortgage. “I would urge homeowners to consider the product as a convenient and cost-effective means of reducing their carbon footprint,” said Dr McCrea.

An entrepreneurial Colorado considers its options

February 24, 2008 (Fort Collins): In a region that breeds entrepreneurs and small business, some are concerned that Colorado is seeing fewer dollars provided by venture capitalists for startup businesses. According to a recent MoneyTree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, while venture capital funds are increasing nationwide, the Centennial state saw its second consecutive year of declining funds.

In 2007, national venture capital investing hit a six-year high at $29.4 billion, the highest yearly investment total since 2001. Compare that to the $564.2 million of investments in Colorado-based companies and the roughly 15 percent decrease from the year before.

The matter is concerning for individuals looking to start companies, some worried that investors are worried and still hesitant from the tech fallout in the early 2000s as well as a lack of organized funding groups within the region.

February was Innovation Month at Colorado State University with events to help startup companies work on business plans, including securing funding. The series of events throughout the month, sponsored by CSU Ventures, addressed a problem many people are already aware of. “Capital is available in Colorado, but not plentiful, and there are essentially no organized capital sources – venture capital or angel investor groups – in Northern Colorado,” said Henry Nowak, director of CSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship.

The center helps not only students with entrepreneurial endeavors but also helps technology-based or high-potential companies to further develop ideas to “functional and financeable businesses,” Nowak said.

Steve Schmutzer, founder of Fort Collins-based Firefly Medical Inc., suspects the money is out there but venture capitalists are hesitant to hand out funds. “The fact remains that there is a lot of money tied up in VC firms these days,” he said. “I suspect that many of the VC companies are still dealing with a bit of a hangover from the tech or dot-com bust of the past, and everyone’s a little jumpy about being ‘the first to move’ on any new opportunity.”

…Fast Company magazine named Fort Collins as one of the 30 Fastest Cities to Work, Live and Play in July 2007, ranking Fort Collins with world business leaders such as Toronto, London and Shanghai. The reason? Inventors in Fort Collins generate 11.45 patents a year per 10,000 people, which is almost four times the U.S. city average, according to the magazine. So why are venture capitalists hesitant when the region produced a significant number of new products?

“Typically, a true VC firm seeks to reduce risk, and if possible, to virtually eliminate it before they jump in. As a result, a true VC firm tends to invest when a company is already in revenue-producing mode,” Schmutzer said.

…On a much grander scale, ICE Energy in Windsor managed to get through its first few years on $10 million in investments, but the core founders of the company, which focuses on energy storage, had to put up the money to initially fund patents and ask friends, family and “Rolodex relationships” for help said CEO Frank Ramirez. “This is not a local lifestyle business,” said Ramirez, who once owned an investment bank. “Its reach is global; the vision is global.”…

Green technology spurs VC funding on New York’s Long Island

February 23, 2008

Long Island Business News: After years of missing the mark for venture capital investing, experts say Long Island could be in for a jolt from the green technology sector. Venture capitalists are increasingly focusing their efforts on the green and clean energy industries as more and more start-up and middle-market businesses focus on technology that’s supposed to help preserve the planet.

A recent survey of investors, entrepreneurs and analysts by accounting firm KPMG found 24 percent of respondents said clean energy technology would receive the most investment money in the next two years, the highest percentage for any sector.

Nationally $2.2 billion in venture capital flowed into the clean technology industry in 2007, up 47 percent from the year prior, according to the MoneyTree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.

“Investment capital in green energy is about where investment in [information technology] was in the 1980s,” said Rep. Steve Israel, D-Huntington. “I think green energy represents the next huge investment boom in our economy, similar to the laptop computer, cell phone and Google.” And local investors and technology experts say Long Island has a lot to offer in the field of green.

With Stony Brook University’s Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center – expected to be a focal point of green research and technology commercialization – under construction, and some advanced energy companies already in operation, experts are hopeful the Island is on the verge of a transformation. “I believe Long Island could economically reinvent itself by focusing on energy technologies,” said Jeff Bass, chairman of the Long Island Capital Alliance.

…Despite the skeptics, many investors are moving down the green path. More than 200 clean technology companies received venture dollars in 2007, and New York City-based Everpower Renewables Corp., a wind energy developer, received the biggest investment of any New York metro area company – netting $55 million – in the fourth quarter, according to the MoneyTree Report.

New York City and the beginning of Long Island, from the Space Shuttle Columbia, NASA, Wikimedia Commons