Tokyo Ohka Kogyo Co., Ltd. (TOK) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) are collaborating to establish new, low-cost methods for bringing the next generation of solar energy products to market — products that will be more affordable and easier to install than those available today.
Specifically, TOK and IBM have agreed to jointly develop processes, materials, and equipment suitable for the production of CIGS (Copper-Indium-Gallium-Selenide) solar cell modules. Currently, the relatively high-cost of electricity produced by solar cells compared to electricity from other energy sources is an inhibitor to a more widespread adoption of solar energy. Use of thin film technology, such as CIGS, has great promise in reducing the overall cost of solar cells and further enabling their widespread adoption.
IBM Research has developed new, non-vacuum, solution-based manufacturing processes for CIGS solar cells and is targeting efficiencies around 15% and higher. Current thin film product efficiencies vary from around 6% to less than 12%. Combining IBM’s technology with the proven coating technique and high purity chemicals of TOK — built upon years of experience manufacturing semiconductors and LCD panels — has the potential to bring the large scale production of thin-film solar cells to market.
One of the many concerns that has hit FSLR in recent weeks is increasing competition. The IBM collaboration may be vapor for a while (perhaps forever), but it won’t help set the competitive concerns to rest.
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