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SolFocus and Spectrolab ink major solar cell deal

Boeing subsidiary Spectrolab sells 600,000 triple-junction cells to the Californian start-up SolFocus.

SolFocus, the Californian start-up company that recently raised $25 million in venture finance, has ordered 600,000 concentrator cells from triple-junction specialist Spectrolab.

Under the 12-month supply deal, the Boeing subsidiary will deliver concentrator cells that will be used to supply renewable energy to homes and businesses in the US.

According to Spectrolab, the cells will be capable of generating more than 10 MW of electricity in total - enough power for about 4000 domestic customers.

SolFocus CEO Gary Conley said of the deal: "Our mission is to deliver reliable solar-generated electricity at wholesale energy prices, and Spectrolab's multi-junction solar cells are key to making that possible."

"Spectrolab's cells will be integrated into our upcoming solar concentrator field test program, and then into the first phase of active deployments."

Although multi-junction cells based on GaAs, related compounds and germanium substrates are slightly more expensive than conventional silicon converters, their higher efficiency and improved performance under high sunlight concentration means that many fewer triple-junction cells are required to achieve a specific power output.

As a result of that, plus a relative shortage of the silicon material required for photovoltaic applications, triple-junction cells have now become a viable option for the utility-scale supply of electricity.

Within the last month, Spectrolab has also signed a major triple-junction cell supply deal with the Australian firm Solar Systems, as demand for the highly-efficient technology in terrestrial applications takes off.

SolFocus is based at the renowned Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) near San Francisco, and boasts Nobel Laureate Arno Penzias as part of its technical advisory board (see related story).

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