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Italy sets concentrating photovoltaics target

Solar energy production is back on the political agenda in Italy, with the country aiming to install 3 GW of photovoltaic capacity over the coming ten years.

by Michael Hatcher in Milan
Italy is planning to install a photovoltaic capacity of 3 GW by 2016, including 500 MW produced by concentrating systems that may feature compound semiconductor cells.

Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, Italy s minister for the environment, land and sea, outlined the new initiative in Milan, which is this week hosting the world s largest ever congress on solar power.

While Italy has near-ideal conditions for concentrator systems - a sunny climate and relatively clear skies - the country has lagged well behind its European neighbors in Spain and, in particular, Germany when it comes to photovoltaics.

Scanio said, “This will make Italy one of the leading countries both in solar energy production and technological innovation.”

Gianni Silvestrini, an advisor to the Italian government on economic development, was also at the Milan event, the 22nd European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference. He added that the new initiative would be backed with €350 million ($260 million) of funds to finance the local renewable energy industry.

Exactly how much of that money finds its way into concentrator technology featuring multi-junction cells based on III-V materials remains to be seen, but compound semiconductors certainly enjoyed a high profile in the Milan event s technical program.

In Monday s opening plenary session, Spectrolab s Richard King described last year s development of 40.7 percent efficiency triple-junction cells (see related story), while Matthias Meusel from Azur Space detailed the leading European efforts.

Meusel said that Azur, which has until recently focused solely on space applications, was working on flexible multijunction cell technology - and aiming to produce cells as thin as 20 microns. Large-area (8x8 cm) and quadruple-junction cells are also being investigated.

Responding to a flurry of demand for custom designs, Azur is using a 12x4 inch Aixtron MOCVD system to produce as many as 1000 cells per wafer.

With around 3000 delegates expected, the Milan conference is on course to be the largest event ever held by the solar energy industry.

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