Next generation solar cells

US company ATS Automation has announced a solar technology that it claims will usher in a new era for solar energy.

Comprised of thousands of tiny silicon beads bonded in an aluminum foil, ATS’s Spheral Solar Technology (SST) is expected to reduce the cost of solar energy and open a range of new industrial, commercial and residential uses of solar power.

Klaus Woerner, ATS CEO, claims that the advantages of SST over traditional solar energy technology are twofold. Firstly, he says, ‘the SST design only requires a fraction of the raw materials – particularly the silicon – used in traditional multicrystalline solar cells to produce the same amount of energy. Based on technical design enhancements made over the past year to SST, we have achieved a sunlight-to-energy conversion ratio that is competitive with conventional multicrystalline solar cells.’

‘Secondly’, adds Woerner, ‘SST is lightweight, pliable and break resistant.’ This means that it can be formed and applied to almost any flat or curved surface – making the applications for the technology almost endless.

The company has begun the design of a 12,000 square foot, highly automated factory and intends to begin commercial manufacture of the new solar cells by the fall of 2003 ‘Spheral Solar Technology’s first factory is expected to produce enough cells to provide 20 megawatts of power annually, which is roughly the total annual power requirement of 6,000 homes,’ adds Woerner.

‘Quite frankly, we believe Spheral Solar Technology will spark substantial new demand for solar energy and we expect to support that demand by building more automated factories in the future.’