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French solar market gets partnership, VC boost

Posted: 01 Oct 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:France solar market? solar cell? photovoltaic? venture capital?

Several initiatives have emerged to continue to foster solar energy on the French soil.

In September, all links to the chain have been involved, from energy companies to the solar cell manufacturer, the material and equipment supplier, academic research as well as venture capital firms.

First on the list is the partnership between French energy group Total SA and the Laboratory of Physics of Interfaces and Thin-films (LPICM), a joint R&D research team between the French national Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and France's Polytechnic Engineering school, to develop silicon thin-film technologies and explore new concepts using silicon nanowires. The key focus of this research program consists in reducing the cost of solar energy to foster its deployment.

Total said it has agreed to provide resources and funding of 8 million euros ($11.7 million) for the initial four-year phase.

"The creation of the joint R&D team is the culmination of 20 years of work on plasma synthesis and thin-film and nanomaterial characterization for photovoltaic solar cells," stated Bernard Drvillon, head of LPICM. "Photovoltaic solar energy has been the core focus of R&D at the lab. Cooperation with Total, a global energy producer and provider, paves the way for practical applications for LPICM's work."

Similarly, Total, energy company GDF Suez and their joint solar cells manufacturing subsidiary Photovoltech announced last week they had joined the IMEC industrial affiliation program on next generations of crystalline silicon solar cells.

The multi-partner R&D program focuses on reducing the use of silicon, whilst at the same time increasing the efficiency of solar cells. Eventually, the goal is to substantially lower the cost for solar energy.

Also last week, solar module manufacturer First Solar Inc. and EDF Energies Nouvelles, a 50-percent-owned subsidiary of France-based EDF group, said they intend to build a solar panel manufacturing plant in the Rhne or Maurienne Valleys, according to French magazine L'Usine Nouvelle.

With an initial capacity of more than 100MWp per year, the plant represents an investment of 90 million euros ($131.7 million). EDF Energies Nouvelles said it will finance half of the capital expense and plant start-up costs. In return, it will benefit from the plant's entire output for the first ten years.

The plant will produce solar panels based on First Solar's advanced, thin-film photovoltaic technology.


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