Set up in December 2001, with an initial investment of approximately 14 million Euros, Photovoltech has the backing of three major shareholders: Total (47.8%), GDF Suez - Electrabel - Soltech (47.8%) and imec (4.4%). Total and Electrabel were already before commercially active in the field of solar energy through their respective subsidiaries Tenesol and Soltech. In 2009, the shares of imec have been sold to Total and GDF-Suez.
Using state-of-the-art high-tech equipment and solar cell technology, developed at imec (see section Silicon pilot line), Photovoltech started production of multicrystalline silicon solar cells in November 2003. As a spin-off of imec, Photovoltech has a variety of innovative technologies at its disposal. Its special texturization production process delivers cells MAXIS (brand name of Photovoltech that results from the combination of the high efficiency that the cells offer (MAX) and the technique of Isotropic texturization (IS)) that combine an outstandingly uniform appearance with high efficiencies (up to 16% and more). A new development in the cell range is the MAXIS BC+ cell, a unique back contact metal wrap through (MWT) cell which offers enhanced visual appeal because there are no bus bars on the front. Meanwhile the Belgian marketing campaign entitled 'Powered by Photovoltech' was successfully expanded towards neighboring country France.
Due to the sustained and increasing growth of the photovoltaic market and strong demand for its products, Photovoltech made the decision to increase its photovoltaic cell production capacity, from 13MWp to 80-85MWp in 2008 and further plans towards 140MWp in 2010 and 250-260MWp in 2012. In 2010 Photovoltech finished construction of a new building that over time will host up to 6 new production lines.
The first of these 6 new lines, the so called line 3, was installed in Q3 2010 with the cell production capacity of 75MWp and this brings Photovoltech's total annual cell production capacity as of 2011 to about 155MWp. In the course of 2011 the production process in line 3 has been fully optimized for fabrication of multicrystalline Si solar cells reaching the top average efficiency above 17% over a full industrial run.
Photovoltech considerably increased its efforts in quality and manufacturing improvement. Our R&D, both in-house and in collaboration with imec, was intensified in 2011.
MWT cells technology (mono and multi type) is well developed and Photovoltech runs regularly production batches of few thousands cells for our MWT module development activity.
Photovoltech has developed and patented a low cost interconnections method applicable to all back-contacted (BC) cells including MWT, emitter wrap-through (EWT) and interdigitated back contacted (IBC). The prototype modules underwent reliability tests with very good results. The main advantage of Photovoltech interconnection method comparing to the ones proposed by competitors, is a low cost. The added improvements from MWT cell and module allows to increase the encapsulated cell efficiency in a module by 1abs.% as compared to standard cells and modules.
Photovoltech has exclusive rights for exploitation of imec patent on a low cost passivated-emitter-and-rear cell (PERC) technology. Within the IIAP-PV a fully screen printed mono-Si PERC cells reached efficiency of 19.8% on 5 inch c-Si substrates. The PERC cells fully fabricated in Photovoltech's pilot line, using own equipment including high throughput atomic layer deposition (ALD) AlOx system, are reaching efficiency above 19,2% on 6 inch p-type Cz-Si wafers. Photovoltech has clear roadmap to increase efficiency above 19,5% by mid of 2012 and 20% by end of this year.top