A new French company has been launched to establish the manufacturing of a completely new generation of high efficiency solar panels.
The tandem units will blend the durability of current generation silicon-based units with totally new technology based on a naturally occurring mineral known as perovskite.
It is a year since Alsace manufacturer Voltec Solar and the Institut Photovoltaïque d’Île-de-France (IPVF) joined forces to create the new venture known as France PV Industrie.
The firm has now secured 9.3million euros ($10.1million) of public money to help fund its ambition.
Commercialisation of pure-play perovskite-based solar panels has universally been a challenging task, particularly with regard to durability.
The perovskite-silicon product is a half-way house calculated to capitalise on the greater power generation capability of perovskite, despite its fragility.
The partners have mapped the road ahead, starting with the commissioning of pilot manufacturing line for tandem panels followed by a 200MW industrial demonstrator in 2025.
After that they plan to increase the factory’s capacity to 1GW (1,000MW) in 2027 and 5GW by 2030.
The company currently operates two 250 MW production lines at its plant in Dinsheim-sur-Bruche.
The pilot line has cost around 15million euros while the demonstrator will require 50million euros.
It is expected to cost around 1billion euros to reach the 5GW target by 2030.
Under the France PV Industrie banner, the objective is to produce more efficient solar panels locally in France and to create a sustainable industry, based on fast-growing domestic, European and wider international markets with a breakthrough technology.
The venture falls within the framework of the so-called France 2030 investment, was submitted to the French Agency for Ecological Transition (ADEME) last year and has now secured funding.
ADEME was set up in 2021 with access to 54billion euros to invest.
It is led by the French General Secretariat for Investment (SGPI).
Faced with global competition and the problems of natural resource consumption and circularity, the project partners are starting out by offering the so-called 4T Perovskite/Silicon Tandem.
Roch Drozdowski-Strehl, managing director of the IPVF said of the perovskite quest: “This is a technological revolution that not only allows us to achieve a 30% efficiency at the photovoltaic module level, compared to the best efficiency currently achieved by traditional technologies (23% or so), but also reduces the consumption of energy and materials necessary for manufacturing and makes use of materials from recycling.”
Securing funding, setting up and getting to the pilot is the result of over nine years of research and prototype engineering.
Belief is that this innovative technology has at last reached a sufficient level of maturity to at last launch its large-scale industrialisation.
Lucas Weiss, CEO of Voltec Solar, said: “Tandem technology will be the dominant photovoltaic technology of the next decade.
“It is likely to shake up the competitive situation and France is currently ahead of the game.”
He and Drozdowski-Strehl together said: “It is an emblematic project for our country, to ensure the creation of jobs and local value, in a positive dynamic that we share.”
Voltec Solar was set up in 2009 and claims to be France’s leading photovoltaic manufacturer with a production capacity that now stands around 500MW worth of conventional silicon panels.
Established in 2014, the IPVF is built around leaders from industry, public research, and equipment manufacturers.
It brings together 150 researchers and a technological platform of around 100 photovoltaic solar cell manufacturing and characterisation facilities.
This is not the only new French venture hoping to cash in on the accelerating solar PV rush in France. Others include:
· Carbon which wants to establish a 5GW/3.5GW cell and module assembly plant in the south;
· Holosolis wants to build a 5GW capacity module assembly plant targeting homes, commercial and industrial rooftop space, plus agricultural use;
· Heliup is looking for investors to back a 9.9million euros ($10.5million) PERC lightweight modulFrance PVC assembly line that should be ready to produce next year.
France has a big PV ambition and is expecting to achieve an installed capacity of 20.1GW by the end of this year compared with 12.33GW just three years ago.
The medium-term target is to have 48GW by 2030 and 140GW by 2050.
Compare this with the UK where the installed capacity is currently around 15GW.
However, having at last recognised the strategic value of PV, the Westminster government has revised its solar targets, aiming to increase capacity more than fourfold to 70GW by 2035 and possibly 80-120GW by 2050.