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Spire Semi's solar return brings instant results

The III-V company formerly known as Bandwidth Semiconductor seems set to cash in on the long-standing photovoltaic cachet of the Spire name.

The remoulding of Spire Semiconductor into a GaAs-based concentrating photovoltaics business seems to have paid off, as the company says it s secured two solar deals.

“We're really pleased that since we ve announced we've moved back into this area we ve got two customers under contract to develop new advanced cells,” said Roger Little, president of Spire Semiconductor's parent company, Spire Corporation.

“The contracts that we have are from US concentration systems companies developing new collectors,” he added. “They're just beginning to develop their products.”

This comes only days after the company s name change from Bandwidth Semiconductor officially came into effect on January 1, a move designed to make the Hudson, New Hampshire, III-V fab more visible in the solar market.

“We know that market's dominated by Spectrolab and Emcore right now,” conceded Little. “It's not our intention to go head-to-head with them - our focus is toward startups that need unique cells, perhaps for a unique collector configuration.”

Little, talking to compoundsemiconductor.net, also said Spire had filed a patent to cover GaAs triple-junction cell technology that can theoretically deliver 43 percent conversion efficiency at 500-fold concentration.

As well as Spire Corporation s continuing operations in the silicon photovoltaic industry, Bandwidth's rapid repurposing is being aided by an employee who remembers the first surge in GaAs solar.

His knowledge dates from the late 1980s, when Spire claimed the overall photovoltaic conversion efficiency record by moving from single crystal silicon to dual-junction GaAs cell technology.

“We've got a solar cell guy up there who s one of the best in the world when it comes to cell designs and fabrication,” claimed Little. “We said OK, dust off your GaAs cell technology, and let's get back out there.”

The company s confident swagger back into the photovoltaic arena is also supported by ammunition in the form of two Veeco MOCVD reactors installed at the company last year, at a cost of $4 million.

“We have the capacity I think, if we were to concentrate on solar cells, to push out 50 megawatts a year, at 500 times concentration,” Little said.

“Now, we're enthusiastic, we've got the people, we've got the machines, we've got the technology and we hope to be a significant player further down the road.”

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