Solar company backed by Bill Gates looks to squeeze more power from panels

Merger deal will create a business that will attempt to generate 30% more energy from photovoltaic panels

A maintenance man works on solar panels at Norsol solar energy company in Villaldemiro, northern Spain, on February 10, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ CESAR MANSO (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)
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A solar-technology company backed by the Bill Gates-led Breakthrough Energy Ventures is seeking to boost output of photovoltaic panels by as much as 30 per cent as it joins forces with a company developing an advanced cell material.

Massachusetts-based 1366 Technologies, which makes wafers for solar cells, is merging with Hunt Perovskite Technologies.

The new company will be called CubicPV and has lined up $25 million in funding from backers including Hunt Energy Enterprises, First Solar and Breakthrough.

The deal combines two complementary technology systems that offer the potential to create more efficient solar panels.

Typical designs now use silicon to convert sunlight into electricity. CubicPV plans to produce photovoltaic products that will use Hunt’s perovskite technology, layered on top of a silicon wafer developed by 1366.

The result is a so-called tandem structure that has both perovskite and silicon components generating electricity.

This is intended to boost output, lower costs and means installers would require less space.

“You reduce the amount of land that you need,” said Frank van Mierlo, who was chief executive of 1366 and is now head of CubicPV. “You make every installation a little cheaper.”

The company plans to build a factory in India that will cost between $300m and $350m.

It is expected to be able to produce up to 2 gigawatts of wafers and cells a year and may be in service by September 2023.