Silicon from Rice makes Cost Effective Solar Cells

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A cost effective process has been developed to produce silicon for solar cells from processed rice hulls. This process is in commercialization and one factory is being constructed. The rice hulls used are not currently used for any food product and this process does not use any food materials.

A growing shortage of solar-grade silicon, is forcing companies to research and develop alternative technologies to convert sunlight into electricity. There is a growing interest in thin film photovoltaics using such materials as amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride (CdTe), and copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS). There is also considerable interest and research into organic-type solar cells where conversion efficiencies have reached 5%. While silicon currently monopolizes the PV market with over 90% market share, thin films could grow to over 20% over the next few years based on current estimates.

Howard Somberg, President of Global PV Specialists (GPS), maintains that silicon will remain the workhorse for PV. Reasons cited for this include: thin films have only about one-half the conversion efficiency of crystalline silicon; the lack of abundant supply of thin film materials, such as tellurium, selenium and indium; and thin film materials are being increasingly used in many electronics applications, including LCD displays, and the price has escalated over 20 times in the past 4 years.

Global PV Specialists and the engineering team there are currently developing two methods that will be able to provide the needed silicon at the low costs, availability and non-toxicity to compete with conventional sources of power. One method, currently under commercialization, is to refine silicon from either rice hulls and/or quartz sand. It is believed that in large-scale production (>100MWp) finished modules can be produced for ~$1.25/Wp with low-cost silicon available. Another method being explored by GPS is to convert fluorosilicic acid into organo-silicon compounds necessary for ED thin film solar cells in a reel-to-reel process. While still in the development stage, it is believed that in a high production reel-to-reel process finished modules can be produced at ~ $.75/Wp.

The rice to silicon production process uses only rice hulls, not the edible rice, is environmentally friendly and is currently being implemented in the first factory of its' kind.

About Global PV Specialists, Inc. - Celebrating 28 Years of Expertise
Global PV Specialists (GPS) was organized in 1981 by Howard Somberg and a group of well-experienced engineers and scientists who have over 250 years of cumulative experience in the PV industry. Global PV Specialists' North American business representative is Global Recruiters of Boulder, the largest sustainables only recruiting firm in the United States.

For More information:
Contact: Chris Beck
Tel: 303 545 6600 x 101

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