Web Date: June 19, 2008
Chip Makers Invest In Solar Power
Two giants of silicon-based computer chips are setting their sights on solar power with major initiatives. IBM is teaming up with Japanese photolithography materials producer Tokyo Ohka Kogyo (TOK) to develop copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS) solar cell technology. And Intel is spinning off SpectraWatt, which will make conventional crystalline silicon-based cells.
IBM and TOK say CIGS cells will be cheaper than silicon cells because they can be printed on thin glass or even flexible substrates. Conventional cells are based on slices of silicon housed in elaborate enclosures.
"Our goal is to develop more efficient photovoltaic structures that would reduce the cost, minimize the complexity, and improve the flexibility of producing solar electric power," says Tze-Chiang Chen, IBM vice president of science and technology.
Meanwhile, Intel, along with Goldman Sachs subsidiary Cogentrix Energy and other investors, are putting $50 million into SpectraWatt. The new firm will focus on improving manufacturing processes to make traditional solar cells cheaper. The company plans to start up its first factory, which will be in Oregon, by the middle of next year.
Market research firm Photon Consulting expects that the world market for solar technology, $30 billion in 2007, will grow at an annual rate of about 40% in the coming years.
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