US solar company SunEdison claims to have come up with a way to produce polysilicon – a key ingredient for efficient solar panels – using a method that is far cheaper and more energy efficient than the current industry standard.
The company has predicted that the high pressure fluidized bed reactor (HP-FBR) solar technology, in action as of this week at its new joint venture facility in Korea, will provide source polysilicon to enable 400 watt peak PV panel performance at a cost of $US0.40 per watt peak by 2016.
As PV Magazine explains, FBR is a relatively new process through which polysilicon is deposited when monosilane gas mixes with silicon seed particles in a reactor, in a continuous process. It offers an alternative to the electricity-intensive Siemens method, which has dominated the industry for decades. It also requires less land and less capital per kilogram of product.
The HP-FBR technology developed by SunEdison claims to produce high purity polysilicon 10 times more efficiently than standard Siemens processes, while requiring 90 per cent less energy consumption.
SunEdison predicts that, from these cost savings, it can bring the cost of polysilicon down to US$0.05 per watt by 2016 using its FBR technology, which translates to under $10 per kilogram.
“Solar energy is at a transformational moment in time and innovative technology is what will power that transformation,” said Ahmad Chatila, CEO of SunEdison.
“Our latest advance is a leap forward in solar technology and will enable solar power to become the lowest cost energy solution – not just an alternative to other renewables, but the cost-winner over fossil fuels as well.”
The company also noted that with the ramp up of the new polysilicon plant in Ulsan, Korea with partner Samsung Fine Chemicals and operated with SunEdison Semiconductor the facility had been expanded to produce 13,500MT per annum, compared to the initial designed capacity of 10,000MT.
Full capacity of the plant – a joint venture with SunEdison Semiconductor and Samsung Fine Chemicals – is expected to be reached in the first quarter of 2015, at which point the companies expect it to produce up to 13,500 metric tonnes annually.
The plant will supply Huntai Group with polysilicon for PV modules and projects, under a partnership announced in June.