|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.
|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.