Rob Harper from IQE said the development of a world class product will position IQE for strong growth in the future, securing and creating highly skilled jobs at its Cardiff plants.
The investment in R&D has been supported by the Welsh Assembly Government and Ieuan Wyn Jones, Minister for the Economy and Transport, said the work being undertaken by IQE – a Knowledge Bank for Business client (K4B) - was already having a significant impact globally.
"This green technology has massive growth potential and I am pleased the Assembly Government is supporting the work being undertaken by IQE. Investment in R&D is vital for the growth of companies and vital for the future growth of the economy, said the Deputy First Minister.
"The Assembly Government is committed to encouraging high level R&D and working with innovative technology based companies to support the development of next generation products. Wales is already making its mark in the rapidly expanding green low carbon sectors which has potential for extensive future growth and job creation which supports our green jobs strategy."
Environment Minister Jane Davidson said:
"Climate change is the greatest challenge we face today and a key element in of our efforts to tackle it will be Wales’ ability to harness clean, green, renewable energy. The technology being developed here by IQE is a great example of how Wales can be at the forefront of developing renewable technology that will play a significant part in the future and help create economic opportunities and sustainable jobs."
The solar spectrum contains many different wavelengths of light including ultra-violet, visible and infra-red and the technology developed at IQE uses several specially engineered layers known as multi-junctions to convert different parts of the solar spectrum into electrical energy.
A far higher percentage of the solar radiation can be harvested using this method compared to other types of solar cells. IQE’s solar cells are already capable of converting around 40% of incident solar irradiation into electrical power and further research is being conducted to improve this.
Another advantage of IQE’s solar technology is that by concentrating sunlight using inexpensive lenses and mirrors, the amount of active solar cell material can be reduced, further lowering the overall unit cost.
Known as concentrating photo-voltaic (CPV) this approach is ideally suited to utility scale installations of 5MW and above and works best in regions with high levels of direct solar irradiation.
Although CPV for terrestrial applications is a new technology and accounts for less than 0.5% of currently installed PV power a number of large CPV installations are underway in Australia, U.S., Spain, Italy and Greece
CPV has enormous market potential because of its high conversion efficiencies and industry experts anticipate a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45% between 2009 and 2015.
It presents new and exciting opportunities for IQE whose manufacturing facility and global headquarters was established in St Mellons Cardiff in 1988.
Rob Harper from IQE said
"The support and grant assistance from the Welsh Assembly Government was instrumental in IQE undertaking this pioneering research and enabled us to make significant progress towards developing high efficiency solar cells for the emerging CPV market."
He said that as a result, IQE has recently produced the world’s first triple junction devices with a new, patented combination of semiconductor materials. This is attracting the attention of many CPV manufacturers worldwide because it has the potential to provide improved efficiency at lower cost.
IQE is already established as the leading global supplier of advanced semiconductor materials for wireless products and is now rapidly gaining recognition as a world leader in materials technology for CPV which is poised for unprecedented market growth.
Mr Harper added,
"The energy it produces is renewable, carbon free and a feasible alternative to burning fossil fuels with the associated problems of climate change. Thanks to Assembly Government support IQE will have its new products ready to meet the expected demand."
The global photo-voltaic PV market has already moved from being a niche market to mainstream and has created over 75,000 high-quality, skilled jobs in Europe alone over the last five years.
The reality of ‘grid parity’ where PV electricity will be equal to or cheaper than existing carbon based electricity is also fast approaching. Countries with high levels of solar irradiation and high electricity prices such as Italy and Spain are predicted to reach parity by 2010. Germany will reach parity in 2015 and most other European countries by 2020.
8 December 2009