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Hydro Takes 23% Stake in Ascent Solar

14 March 2007

Ascent
Ascent’s thin and flexible solar technology.

Hydro, the Norwegian oil and energy company that is merging with Statoil, has entered into an agreement to invest US$9.2 million in US solar energy company Ascent Solar Technologies, which has developed a super thin and flexible solar cell technology. The investment gives Hydro a 23% ownership interest in Ascent Solar.

This is Hydro’s second investment in solar power over the last six months. In November 2006, Hydro invested NOK150 million (US$24.4 million) in Norsun, a company planning to open a plant in Årdal, Norway for the production of monocrystalline silicon wafers for solar cells.

Ascent Solar Technologies plans to build a 1.5 MW pilot plant in Denver, Colorado in 2008, and in 2010 it will commence large-scale production from a 25 MW plant.

Cigs_modle
A CIGS solar cell. Click to enlarge. Source: Ascent Solar.

The three most common thin-film technologies are amorphous silicon (a-Si), cadmium telluride (CdTe) and copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGS). Of these, CIGS currently has demonstrated the highest laboratory efficiency at 19.5% (NREL, measured in earth conditions) with CdTe close behind.

Ascent Solar produces thin film solar cells by applying a layer of copper, indium, gallium and selenide (CIGS) to a flexible foil that is encapsulated in a protecting material. The resulting solar cells are extremely thin. The active layer that converts sunlight into electricity is no more than three micrometers thick (0.003 millimeter), compared with more than 200 micrometers (0.2000 millimeter) in today’s solar cells.

The result is solar cells that can be bent, rolled, and applied to curved surfaces as well as being used the same way as conventional solar cells.

Ascent Solar’s cells will be produced in a continuous roll-to-roll manufacturing process. This, combined with low material consumption in the production process, contributes to very low production costs.

Since 1998 there has been an annual growth of approximately 40% in the market for conventional solar energy. The market for thin film technologies is growing by 70% annually.

Hydro has purchased 1.6 million shares of Ascent Solar for US$5.7725 per share, representing a 25% premium on the average of the closing bid prices in the five trading days preceding the sale. Subject to shareholder approval, Norsk Hydro will be entitled to purchase up to an additional 12% of the outstanding shares of Ascent Solar’s common stock (post-issuance) and a corresponding proportion of Class A and Class B Warrants.

Hydro and Statoil are merging to create a globally competitive player in the petroleum industry and to be the world’s biggest offshore operator. The name of the merged company will be StatoilHydro ASA.

March 14, 2007 in Power Generation, Solar | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

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I hope this translates to a market affordable solution to our energy needs. These thin-film PV could very well be applied to Hybrid and particularly BEV. Even though it wouldn't provide a full charge, it would relieve the grid somewhat. On days you run out of juice, it recharges itself enough to get you to a charging point.

Solar vinyl siding?Roofing,exterior panels for commercial buildings.It may take a decade to mature but I think you will see pervasive solar happen.Windows are being developed and even wallpaper.If nano tech can enable mass production of many solar products, the lesser amounts generated by cigs et al can be effectual by being present on massive amount of surfaces.

If cheap solar comes around from companies like Ascent Solar, Nanosolar, SunPower, ect, it could lead to solar energy economy with every house, building even road providing power. But solar is intermittent and some alternate source will be needed for night and cloudy days. A giant battery system could work where some of the solar power is stored to power the night shift. Such battieries would be huge. Electric cars could store power off the gird during the day (assuming you can plug the car in at work) and discharge it during the night. Hydrogen or some other Electrochemical fuel could be used instead of battieries, this would be cheaper then giant battieres, but would lose alot of energy in conversion loss.

Ben: I don't think giant batteries are likely. Cheap fuel may have prevented utilities from investigating them in the past.

Flywheel storage has some promise because they can be located underground and in unpopulated areas. The utilities can also use solar to pump water up hill and then use well established hydropower generation means to generate power.

One idea, for which I have not seen a feasiblitity study, is to simply use solar energy to heat a large mass - perhaps molten iron. Then that heat could run steam generators as needed. Israel was trying 'solar ponds' decades ago but I no longer hear about it.


Well, if at all possible, solar powered Hydrogen could be the answer. Isn't that where we're going anyway? How much does a small H2 cost?

The best solar PV thin-films in US (according to real-life performance and durability) are mass-produced by ECD/Ovonics. It is of flexible thin-film three-junction amorphous silicone variety.

The best mass-produced solar PV films by the criterion of cost/efficiency in US are thin-film Cd-Tl films produced by First Solar. This is the reason why their shares are at least 5-fold higher than according to company fair value.

Current price of PV solar films, and the price being the best integral criterion of energy used in their production (aka EROI), make solar PV both price and energy inefficient, except for niche applications, when grid power is not available. As such solar PV is not viable replacement to traditional ways to produce electricity, at least today.

Price of PV films is descending, but not very fast. Hopefully, in near future solar PV will become both price and energy efficient alternative.

As stated above, thin film has an efficiency of 20% in the lab, but the first commercial products are only around 5%, so it would take surface area the size of a city bus to recharge your PHEV or BEV. Still, promising technology. Someday it will be in the car's paint on hood, roof, trunk, etc. and be efficient enough to keep the energy storage unit charged.

As for Earl's comments above ; you probably won't need big batteries, but you'll need an large array of them stored in a basement or somewhere. Also, usually any excess you can sell back to the power company in the area and either your overall power bill is lessened or the power company has to send you a check.

I would like to have enough on my roof to charge that Volt electric for a 40 mile round trip.

Enquiring on solar energy car

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