Akzo Nobel and Shell Renewables have signed a joint development agreement to pilot a low cost process for mass-producing flexible solar cell panels.
If the pilot project proves successful, it could help to overcome one of the main hurdles to widespread application of solar photovoltaics: its high cost.
Currently solar panels have to be manufactured from expensive materials – such as pure silicon, glass and metals – using labour-intensive processes.
The new process to be tested by Shell and Akzo Nobel in Arnhem, the Netherlands, uses mass-production methods to apply a special ‘solar cell coating’ (20 times thinner than a human hair) virtually continuously to rolls of flexible foil substrates. In order to speed up this development, Akzo Nobel and Shell are also participating in a parallel programme with the Technical Universities of Delft and Eindhoven, the Utrecht University, TNO (The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research) and ECN (Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands), in the Netherlands.
The Dutch Government Energy Ecology and Technology programme, NOVEM (the Dutch agency for energy and the environment) and the European Union are also supporting the programme.