Sencera, a manufacturer of thin film silicon based photovoltaic modules, has successfully deposited single-junction silicon solar cells with an initial 8.7% sunlight to electricity conversion efficiency under standard test conditions. As a result, the Company has secured the final $5.2 million of a $15.6 million investment from the California based lead investor Quercus Trust.
Sencera's solar device efficiency gain was achieved with process and hardware enhancements to its Viper™ platform. The Viper™ is a proprietary, fully automated, Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) manufacturing platform developed entirely at Sencera. Recent innovations on The Viper™ have improved cell absorption of both blue and red light sections of the solar spectrum resulting in the conversion of more light to electricity. "This efficiency milestone validates our manufacturing platform, and our cost model. We intend to expand our present 1MW research capacity to 35 MW annual capacity over the next two quarters," said Dr. Rusty Jewett, Sencera's CEO.
After two rounds of equity financing, Sencera has fully funded the first manufacturing line without incurring debt. Over 75% of the production equipment and process required to manufacture solar modules is the company's proprietary design. Sencera's capital expenditure is less that $1 per Watt of annual production capacity which correlates to a reduction in panel manufacturing costs. According to CFO Britt Weaver, "Sencera's capital requirement to build a factory is less than one-half the cost of competitors. As a result, Sencera is positioned well for long term price volatility in the solar module marketplace."
Initial company plans include production of a 7% efficient, 106 Watt single-junction amorphous silicon module at the company's 35 MW (Megawatt) solar module factory under construction in Charlotte, NC. Future plans include development of a second generation tandem junction module with a targeted stabilized efficiency over 11%. This will increase manufacturing capacity to 50MW without the purchase of additional equipment.
Solar cell performance was independently confirmed by The Uiversity of Delaware's Institute of Energy Conversion, designated in 1992 a University Center of Excellence for Photovoltaic Research and Education by the Department of Energy.