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28 November 2006


Q-Cells forms JV to commercialize Solibro’s CIGS PV technology

Silicon-focused solar cell manufacturer Q-Cells AG of Thalheim, Germany is taking a 67.5% stake in a joint venture called Solibro GmbH that it is forming to commercialize the copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS)
thin-film photovoltaic technology developed by Solibro AB.

The investment follows much interest from other solar cell makers (currently enduring a shortage of polysilicon source material not expected to ease until 2008) and venture capital investors in CIGS solar cell developers Nanosolar, Miasolé, HelioVolt, DayStar Technologies and Global Solar Energy (all US-based, though the latter is now German-owned).

Q-Cells claims it became the world's second-largest solar cell manufacturer last year, with a market share of 9%. Solibro AB is a spin-off from the Ångström Solar Center of Sweden’s University of Uppsala, supported by the Swedish Energy Agency. Its shareholders are the four founders (12.5 %), Uppsala University (1.5 %), Swedish pension fund Sjätte AP-Fonden (45%), Norway’s Energy Future Invest (30 %), Vattenfall (6 %), ABB (3 %), and Innovationsbron i Uppsala AB (1.5 %).

The pilot line in Uppsala processes solar-active CIGS layers on glass substrates of industrial size, and has achieved modules with efficiencies exceeding 11.5%. Based on a closely related technology, the affiliated research group at the Ångström Solar Center has realized efficiencies under
laboratory conditions of up to 16.6% (mini-modules, on a par with the most efficient commercial crystalline silicon solar-cell modules) and 18.5% (solar cells).

Q-Cells AG will initially pay Solibro AB €4m for its 67.5% share and €20m against the achievement of technological milestones, and has committed €60m to the JV. Ownership of the technology (for which three patent applications
have been filed) and all related assets will be transferred to Solibro GmbH. The pilot line will be transformed to a manufacturing development centre, operated as a subsidiary of Solibro GmbH, to provide technological support to production and to drive further CIGS developments of strategic importance.

The plan is to build an initial factory in Thalheim with an annual production capacity of 25-30MWp. The partners are expected to decide on the construction of the first production site in Thalheim by mid-2007. The €60m
will then be invested in this first-stage expansion.

See related item.