Since Natcore is primarily a maker of solar cell production equipment and supplies rather than the actual solar cells, and because they are focused on development of a super-efficient tandem solar cell, they are teaming with three subcontractors in order to offer their customers a facility that is fully built, equipped, and staffed. Memoranda of Understanding with Jacob White Construction, Spire Corporation, and Helium Resources were signed last week.
Jacob White Construction is a commercial construction company headquartered in Houston. They would work with Natcore to build the facilities and would provide consulting services during project design, build-out, and startup phases. Their projects have included the Johnson Space Center, the Houston Air Traffic Control Facility, and Texas Children’s Hospital. They have shown particular proficiency in green building technology.
Spire Corporation is a global solar company providing turnkey production lines and capital equipment to manufacture photovoltaic modules and cells. Headquartered in Bedford, MA, they have designed and built a fully automated production line for solar modules. For Natcore, they would outfit new facilities and train the personnel who work in them.
Helium Resources, of Plano, TX, has industry concentrations in energy and construction and would recruit qualified candidates to staff the facilities. In the case of the proposed New Mexico project, for example, where approximately 2,500 sustainable jobs would be created for a 250-megawatt plant, Helium Resources would work with existing resources such as the New Mexico Workforce Commission and Wounded Warrior Project as well as pioneering new programs to attract top talent.
“Our goal is to make solar power cost competitive with conventional power,” says Chuck Provini, Natcore’s president and CEO. “We feel our technology can do that by revolutionizing the way that solar cells are made. We are replacing the old chemical vapor deposition (CVD) method with our LPD wet chemistry process.
“These alliances will also help us reach our goal,” he continues. “They give us instant expertise in plant design, construction, automation, and staffing. Spire’s automation experience in particular, combined with recent advances in our exclusive technology, will help us to produce efficient solar cells at potentially the lowest cost in the world.”
CVD requires a high-temperature vacuum furnace to grow an anti-reflective coating on a silicon substrate; highly toxic and flammable silane; silicon discs of sufficient thickness to withstand the high-temperature firing; and dangerous chemicals. LPD, on the other hand, grows the AR coating in a chemical bath at ambient temperatures; eradicates the need for silane; dramatically reduces energy requirements; and significantly lowers silicon usage.
Moreover, the LPD method can utilize the waste materials from the initial production of the silicon wafers or from the production of semiconductors, thereby allowing LPD facilities to lower their cost of goods. And the effluents from the LPD process can be recycled or can be mixed with lime and sold to cement manufacturers for use in their production process.
“Dealing with the toxic waste issue will become a major hurdle as the solar cell industry matures and expands.” Says Natcore Chairman Brien Lundin. “With our wet chemistry process, Natcore is on the leading edge of solving this problem.”
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