March 20, 2007 – Applied Materials Inc. has been awarded a contract to provide T-Solar Global S.A. of Spain with Europe’s first thin-film solar module production line using ultralarge 5.7 m2 (2.2×2.6 m) glass panels. By scaling to these large-area substrates, the same size used in Gen 8.5 flat-panel displays (FPDs), the integrated line is expected to drive down the cost of solar-panel manufacturing while doubling rated factory output. For installations such as large commercial rooftops and solar farms – rapidly growing applications due to the increased availability of lower-cost thin-film solar panels – these ultralarge substrates are expected to enable an additional 25% reduction in the cost of solar electricity.
“We look forward to working with Applied Materials on this vital project,” says Juan Laso, general manager of T-Solar. “This investment, promoted by a consortium of independent investors led by Marcial Portela, with Isolux Corsan construction, engineering, and service group as the main shareholder, capitalizes on the rapidly expanding market in Spain for photovoltaic installations. Large-area thin-film panels are ideally suited for these open space applications due to their performance in high-temperature conditions and cost advantages for large-scale installations.”
T-Solar is expected to produce panels using the thin-film production line supplied by Applied by mid-2008. The contract provides that Applied will deliver a fully integrated equipment line for a solar-panel manufacturing facility with a nominal rated capacity of 40 MW/year – twice the production size of conventional thin-film solar facilities. This line can be configured for end-market product sizes from 1.4 m2 to 5.7 m2.
Mark Pinto, PhD, senior vice president and general manager of Applied’s New Business and New Products Group, notes that the FPD industry saw capital cost per area reduced by more than 60% with the move from Gen 5 to Gen 8.5 panels, and he expects this will follow for the solar-panel industry. “No other manufacturer of photovoltaic production equipment worldwide other than Applied is currently in a position to offer a production line for this size of module,” Pinto adds.
Since announcing its new focus on the solar power industry last September, Applied revealed last week that it also would install solar-power generation capabilities at its own Sunnyvale, CA-based research campus in ongoing efforts to reduce dependence on electricity, a project that is expected to be completed next year and will generate more than 2330 MW-hr annually.