Natcore Technologies is preparing to take its black silicon solar technology to market now that it has third-party confirmation that it could not only increase solar cell efficiency, but also cut production costs by up to 23.5 percent.
“We knew there would be a cost saving,” said Chuck Provini, Natcore President and CEO. “We were surprised that it was so large, however. Production-cost savings of this magnitude will likely overshadow any power gains of black silicon and make Natcore’s technology a must-have for solar cell manufacturers worldwide.”
The savings realized occur in the production process. Solar manufacturers typically buy solar cells from outside sources that cut them from a single ingot, leaving saw damage around the edges that must be removed. Thae process requires time and special equipment. It also reduces the useable surface area of the solar cell.
After the saw damage is removed, manufacturers then must texturize the silicon wafer surface and apply an antireflective coating, usually using a high-temperature chemical vapor deposition. It’s an expensive process that Natcore’s black silicon technology eliminates with its liquid-phase deposition technology.
Analysts, using a ‘bottom up’ manufacturing cost estimation, found that Natcore’s black silicon could reduce the manufacturing cost of a single silicon solar cell from 17 cents per watt to about 13 cents.
This type of savings is significant. GTM Research recently published a piece arguing that technology, rather than materials, will drive future cost reductions in solar. While this news illustrates that point, GTM also stated that Chinese manufacturers would likely reduce solar cell costs by 1 cent per watt over the next year.
“We could quadruple those savings in one fell swoop,” Provini added.
Natcore has been slowly preparing to take its technology to market. Initially, the company aimed to partner with solar manufacturers that would bankroll the research and development, but decided to retain ownership of its liquid-phase deposition and black silicon processes in 2012. The company raised money through private placement of its stock and began developing its technology with plans to take it to market on its own. The time to do that has arrived with this recent announcement about cost savings..
“We feel so optimistic about this development that we’ve begun making plans to take our technology to market,” Provini stated. “The company had already been working closely with some solar manufacturers that were interested in the technology and Natcore leadership is certain that this announcement will help the company progress.”
“When solar companies are scrambling to save fractions of a cent, a saving of 3 to 4 cents per watt is momentous,” Dr. Dennis Flood, Natcore’s Co-Founder andCchief Technology Officer said.