6 April 2010


Natcore acquires Vanguard Solar

After forming the joint venture Natcore China with a Chinese consortium to produce equipment and materials for solar cell manufacturing using its proprietary liquid phase deposition (LPD) technology, Natcore Technology Inc of Red Bank, NJ, USA has executed a letter of intent to purchase Vanguard Solar Inc of Sudbury, MA, USA, a private firm controlling key solar energy intellectual property.

In exchange, Vanguard shareholders have been issued common shares in Natcore (subject to the approval of the TSX Venture Exchange). Specific terms of the transaction will be provided upon closing of the acquisition, which is subject to the completion of due diligence and mutually agreeable legal documentation.

Two of Vanguard’s founders and shareholders are professor Andrew Barron and Dr Dennis Flood, both of whom are scientific founders of Natcore. It was collectively felt that the acquisition of Vanguard and integration of its technology into Natcore’s intellectual property portfolio would continue to expand the depth and breadth of Natcore’s impact on the solar industry.

Vanguard has been focused on developing a flexible, thin-film photovoltaic material capable of silicon solar cell-like efficiency performance, but potentially at one tenth of the manufacturing cost and one twentieth of the capital investment. The firm employs a proprietary chemical bath process similar to Natcore’s liquid phase deposition (LPD) technology, which it has licensed exclusively from Rice University. However, Vanguard is growing II-VI compound semiconductor thin films on carbon nanotubes at room temperature and ambient pressure, while Natcore has previously concentrated on growing silicon dioxide films on silicon substrates.

“While we remain focused and committed to advancing our LPD technology for anti-reflective (AR) films and super-efficient tandem solar cells, the acquisition of Vanguard Solar provides significant additional value to our intellectual property portfolio,” says Natcore’s chairman Brien Lundin. “Meanwhile, our work to advance our LPD technology, and to finalize our joint venture agreement with our Chinese partners for the design and sale of AR-growth equipment, continues on schedule.”

First-generation products from Vanguard’s method could produce 15–16% efficiencies at module costs of 60–70 cents per watt. It is anticipated that second-generation technology could achieve 20% efficiencies at even lower costs per watt. The investment for production facilities is projected to be as little as $10–15m per 100–150MW of production capability, compared with current costs of as much as $250m for standard solar-cell production facilities, it is reckoned. 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 much cheaper than silicon and other thin-film systems, it is claimed. The process would enable a very cost-efficient production capability in large-scale facilities, Natcore reckons.

The acquisition represents another outgrowth of Barron’s foundational work in chemical processes that mimic materials growth in nature, says Natcore’s president & CEO Chuck Provini. “The very name of our company, being a combination of ‘nature’ and ‘core,’ was chosen to reflect this remarkable synthesis of natural processes.”

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