Natcore to expand solar capabilities with Vanguard

March 31, 2010

VANCOUVER: Natcore Technology Inc. is enlarging its solar portfolio with the purchase of Vanguard Solar Inc.

The Vancouver-based solar technology developer has signed a letter of intent to acquire Sudbury, Mass.-based Vanguard, which controls “key” intellectual property in the field of solar energy.

Natcore said Vanguard has been developing a flexible, thin-film photovoltaic material capable of efficient silicon solar cell-like performance for would could be one tenth the manufacturing cost and one twentieth the capital investment.

Vanguard uses a proprietary chemical bath process similar to Natcore’s liquid phase deposition (LPD) technology, although it’s growing II-VI compound semiconductor thin films on carbon nanotubes at room temperature and ambient pressure, while Natcore has concentrated on growing silicon dioxide films on silicon substrates.

The first-generation products from Vanguard’s method could produce 15% to 16% efficiencies at module costs of 60 cents to 70 cents per watt, but Natcore anticipates the second-generation technology could achieve 20% efficiencies at even lower costs per watt.

Investment in production facilities is projected to be $10 million to $15 million per 100-megawatt to 150-megawatts of production capability compared with current costs of up to $250 million for standard solar-cell production facilities.

Natcore said Vanguard’s production equipment would be designed for insertion into an existing roll-to-roll film-coating line of the sort that has been displaced by the emergence of digital photography.

“All production materials are widely available and dramatically cheaper than silicon and other thin film systems. If successfully developed, the process would enable a very cost-efficient production capability in large-scale facilities,” the company said.