Photovoltaic inks are a new type of PV that are poised to create the next generation of low-cost PV. At least one company, Sol Voltaics, is one step closer, with a unique approach that doesn’t create a PV device, but instead compliments other PV devices. The Swedish company recently raised a total of $15.6 million to move Solink, a nanomaterial-based ink, from the lab to pilot production.
The company announced on Sept. 17 that it raised $9.4 million in an equity round led by Norwegian investment company Umoe, who previously invested in Sol Voltaics’ incubation stages. That’s in addition to a $6.2 million loan from the Swedish Energy Agency. This most recent investment has helped the company to reach its 2013 funding goals.
“The combination of shortage of energy in the world and global warming presents a unique long term opportunity of capitalizing on a trend towards alternative energy,” said Jens Ullveit-Moe, CEO of Umoe and former chairman of REC Solar. “The technology that Sol Voltaics is developing promises to be disruptive in the solar market.”
In the newest round of funding, Umeo, as well as Industrifonden, Nano Future Invest and Foundation Asset Management have all become major shareholders of Sol Voltaics. The company also gained a new investor in Kent Janér, cleantech investor and CEO of Nektar Asset Management.
“With this closing, we now have the resources to take the company to pilot production,” said David Epstein, CEO, Sol Voltaics. “Together with strategic partners, we plan to demonstrate wave concentrated photovoltaics using large quantities of nanowires on commercially viable solar cells.”
Nanoink isn’t designed to serve as a stand-alone photovoltaic device, however. Instead, Solink has been developed to increase the performance and energy output of PV modules by up to 25 percent, according to the company. The ink is a gallium arsenide additive that’s designed to work with crystalline silicon or thin-film PV that allows the module to convert more of the sun’s light into electricity, according to the company.
“To date, the challenge of advanced materials is that they have been expensive to produce and difficult to implement,” a spokesperson for Sol Voltaics said.
Gallium and arsenide are most commonly used in multi-junction PV cells, which have reached energy conversion efficiency levels of 44.4 percent this year. Solink uses miniscule amounts of these novel nano materials.
The company went on to explain that its ink is applied to a PV module toward the end of the existing module production process. The application process uses standard equipment that’s relatively inexpensive.
“Solink’s Aerotaxy process for producing nanomaterials also dramatically reduces the cost of producing these materials while increasing uniformity and volume of production,” the spokesperson from Sol Voltaics added.
The company anticipated that demonstration PV cells enhanced with the ink will be available by the end of 2013. It's also projecting that volume production of modules enhanced with its Solink will start in 2016.