Disruptive solar tech firm awarded €1.2m EU grant

9 Jun 2011

A Dublin clean tech company that has developed a disruptive new technology for sustainably manufacturing solar cell devices has been awarded a €1.2m EU grant under Framework Programme 7.

The technology developed by Nines Photovoltaics could open up a massive export market. It will use the award to further develop its manufacturing process.

This new technology will reduce the cost of production and the overall environmental impact while increasing the speed and degree of process control required for the production of photovoltaic (PV) solar cells.

“From a cost and environmental perspective, the current solar-cell production process is unsustainable and limits the ability for solar PV to compete with traditional energy sources. In 2010, there were roughly 10bn solar cells produced worldwide, consuming over 25bn litres of water and other chemicals,” said Edward Duffy, CEO, Nines Photovoltaics.

“The heavy environmental footprint of solar-cell manufacturing is strangling the ability of the PV sector to grow and meet the growing power demand. There is enough solar energy available to power the whole planet 100 times over but we must learn to harvest this energy in a sustainable and cost-effective way,” Duffy said.

The technology that Nines Photovoltaics has developed enables the solar-cell producer to dramatically lower its waste consumption and enables investment in further scaling of its manufacturing facilities. Nines Photovoltaics is the first company to offer a process solution which uses a fully dry process using only Zero Global Warming Potential chemicals.

Dawn of a fast-growing solar industry

The FP7 funding enables Nines Photovoltaics to collaborate with a consortium of European partners, research institutes and SMEs, with specific expertise and domain knowledge to further develop the technology and bring the end product to the global market.

Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development (FP7) promotes R&D collaborations amongst European countries. Nines Photovoltaics is leading this project from the front and will collaborate with the Fraunhofer IWS Institute in Dresden, Germany, the Fraunhofer ISE Institute in Freiburg, Germany, Vestlandsforsking in Norway, Alyxan in France, Solartech in Czech Republic, and Zimmermann & Schip Handhabungstechnik GmbH in Germany.

“This award is a superb endorsement of our technology by a panel of European experts and we feel very much vindicated in our technological development choices,” said Laurent Clochard, CTO of Nines Photovoltaics.

“We have been working on developing this technology for the last two years, capitalising on our semiconductor process knowledge, and have made some significant progress with our partners in Germany. The solar industry is a relatively young industry, growing very fast, and there are many opportunities. It is very much a global market and we are planning to export 100pc of our products.

“We hope to equip our first production lines in Q4 2012 with PV manufacturers based across the globe.”

Nines Photovoltaics is going through a second round of funding in order to finance further product development and ensure global market penetration.

Welcoming the announcement, John O’Dea, Enterprise Ireland manager of high-potential start-ups, said: “This is a very high-tech company showing strong success.

“As the lead partner in this project, Nines Photovoltaics is working with leading international researchers and companies in a partnership that enhances the international standing of the company.

“Enterprise Ireland is delighted to support Nines Engineering and to be working with them as they continue to develop their international business,” O’Dea added.

Photo: Edward Duffy CEO, Simon Forsyth CFO, and Laurent Clochard CTO, Nines Photovoltaics

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years