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Solar Opportunities Stack Up At Emcore

The multi-junction solar company says it's bringing its latest and best cells to market next year, and hopes to see its technology in some further major deployments in the meantime.

Emcore has signed two deals to provide GaAs concentrating photovoltaics, which could each exceed the size of the company's largest single-deployment order to date.

A memorandum of understanding for a 3-year 150 MW supply agreement with a project spanning Spain, Italy and Greece will probably become the first firm order.

“At this point we have gone through a rigorous technology review by third party consultants," said Emcore's CEO Reuben Richards. “They've issued a commitment to fund us and we are moving forward on that. Expect closure in a relatively short timeframe."

A second, 200 MW, memorandum of understanding signed with a California-based project is somewhat less certain. An existing tax credit scheme must continue beyond 2008 to secure its confirmation. Several more small and intermediate-size deals, totaling at least 38 MW, also should be placed in the near future.

Raising output and conversion
Production on 40 percent terrestrial conversion efficiency systems, where the cells are packaged with a light-concentrating lens, will commence at Emcore in January 2008.

That will be the final innovation of Emcore's current generation of triple-junction cells that are now being produced, offering 37 percent conversion efficiency.

The company says that it will begin producing 43 percent efficient “inverted metamorphic" or IMM technology (see related stories) at the end of 2008. Systems using this technology should be able to deliver 45 percent efficiency by the end of 2010, according to Richards.

The company claims that GaAs is already more affordable than competing technologies, with the cheapest running costs available in solar power.

“The area of the solar cell is much smaller, that s the advantage of concentrating photovoltaic technology," said Hong Hou, Emcore s president and COO. “We ve calculated internally roughly $5-7 million capital equipment requirement for every 30 MW you increase in capacity. That s a lot more affordable than silicon."

Once the highest conversions efficiency cells are in high-volume production, these costs should diminish even further.

Generating interest
Emcore is additionally seeing growth in business at the chip and receiver level. The existing 105 MW order from Green and Gold Energy has now swollen from $24 million to $39 million, thanks to inclusion of concentrating receiver modules on top of the original order for GaAs cells.

Richards also says the company has an ongoing $100 million 5-year deal with Isofoton, a rival to Emcore at the module and system levels, but a customer at the chip level.

To accommodate all of these deals, Emcore has boosted its annual production capacity from 75 MW per annum as of July 2007, to 150 MW per annum. The company is planning for further expansion in 2008, but hasn't given exact details - perhaps because it wants to see how much more full its order book can get.

• Emcore s order backlog has actually swollen further following the signing of a third memorandum of understanding, to supply 60 MW of solar systems in Canada.

There are also discussions ongoing to determine whether the deal will see an Emcore assembly facility established at the site. See the company s news release for more details.

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