Perhaps nowhere is the build-a-better-mousetrap principle more alluring than in the solar power sector, where Silevo, a company that’s been plotting for four years, has now joined the fun, unveiling its strategy for making “the industry’s best performance-to-cost ratio” solar modules.
Silevo believes the world will beat a path to its doorstep because of its proprietary technology called Triex, with a “tunneling junction” architecture that is said to allow a hybrid of materials to “deliver high efficiency, competitive module costs, and optimal energy harvest.”
Silevo said it has been making modules in a pilot phase – and shipping them to partners – that convert between 20 and 21 percent of the sun’s energy into power, well above the typical rate for thin-film cells. That rate is also competitive with the highest-output silicon cells, where SunPower is the leader with a commercially available panel that is 22.4 percent efficient.
This impressive efficiency is the result, Silevo said, of combining in a single solar module high-performance crystalline silicon N-type substrates, thin-film passivation layers and that unique tunneling oxide layer.
Perhaps just as significantly, the company said that Triex doesn’t use silver, which “eliminates the use of costly silver pastes that traditional c-Si device manufacturers rely on for electrodes, typically the second highest priced material in a module after silicon itself.” Instead, the Silevo process uses a “low resistivity copper-based metallization scheme,” leaving it “immune to silver’s increasing cost issue in the marketplace, while capturing the performance advantages of copper,” the company said.
Silevo is headquartered in Fremont, Calif., where it has a research and development center, but the company is eying China for production. Silevo said it recently closed $33 million in financing with several investors, and will use the funds to in part build a high-volume manufacturing plant in Hangzhou, China, and also to “drive advanced research for Triex in Silicon Valley to 24 percent conversion efficiency.”