Monday, September 22, 2008

New York may get solar boost from IBM

Following the semiconductor slowdown, New York is shifting its attention towards solar, especially in the Hudson Valley.
Several smaller solar startups have set up shop in Hudson Valley, which is just outside New York City. But the area may get a huge boost, as IBM Corp. is reportedly looking to enter the solar cell fray.
Encompassing nine counties that stretch 150 miles from just outside New York City nearly to Albany, the Hudson Valley is the fastest growing part of New York State.
IBM may enter the market on its own or with a partner. The company has announced several solar technology breakthroughs, but has yet to enter the merchant solar market.
Frank Falatyn, vice chairman of the Solar Energy Consortium in Hudson Valley, said a "very large company" is interested in moving into the market, but he declined to elaborate. Many speculate about IBM's intent. Falatyn is also president of Fala Technologies Inc., which offers turnkey engineering and manufacturing services.
Solar focusMany hi-tech companies in Hudson Valley are moving into solar amid huge demand for the technology. For example, Prism Solar Technologies Inc. recently announced that it has received the first equipment for its 60 megawatt holographic film production line in Tucson, Arizona.
In Ulster County, just outside New York City, the company will shortly open a plant. It will be developing and manufacturing proprietary holographic optical film technology as well as photovoltaic modules incorporating its Holographic Planar Concentrator (HPC) technology.
The company estimates that it will bring more than 140 jobs within three years into the community, and more than 400 jobs within five years. Prism has raised more than $8.5 million dollars primarily from venture capital firms and expects to be announcing an agreement on a manufacturing site in Ulster County in the near future.
Another startup, Solar Thin Films Inc., a developer of manufacturing equipment for the production of "thin-film" amorphous silicon photovoltaic modules, has recently signed an agreement with Ulster County, New York, for the establishment of a solar module manufacturing plant.
The facility will represent Solar Thin Films' first amorphous solar module manufacturing plant in the United States.
The company will utilize solar module manufacturing machinery produced by Kraft Electronikai Srt., based in Budapest, Hungary, a subsidiary of Solar Thin Films. The company anticipates that once established, the facility will be capable of establishing six lines of equipment capable of producing 36MW of module power.
In addition, Solar Thin Films will also use its new Ulster County location for research into the enhancement of amorphous silicon module efficiency as well as the development of copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) panels. The parties believe that the new facility will create a substantial number of new jobs in Ulster County over the next five years.
Is IBM next?IBM has developed technology in the arena. Recently, for example, IBM said it has managed to squeeze 230W of power on to a centimeter square of solar panel using concentrator photovoltaics. The energy was then converted to 70W of usable electric power, the best power efficiency yet achieved, the company claimed.
The IBM researchers used a very thin layer of a liquid metal made of a gallium and indium compound that they applied between the chip and a cooling block. Such layers, called thermal interface layers, transfer the heat from the chip to the cooling block so that the chip temperature can be kept really low.
IBM and Japan's Tokyo Ohka Kogyo Co. Ltd (TOK) recently said they are collaborating to establish low-cost methods for bringing solar cells to the market. TOK and IBM have agreed to develop processes, materials, and equipment suitable for the production of solar cells, based on copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS) technology.
- Mark LaPedusEE Times

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