While the terms of the JV are still to be laid out, the two parties have signed a letter of intent to work together. Under the partnership, they say, they will focus on increasing efficiencies and lowering costs.
The research and development work, says Natcore in a statement released, will be based on its liquid phase deposition (LPD) technology. LPD, it explains, is safer, more environmentally friendly and cheaper than the traditional chemical vapor deposition (CVD) process.
The company goes on to say that three key areas will be focused on. First off, a selective emitter concept will be worked on, which could improve efficiencies by two percent by placing front contacts on a cell.
Secondly, the JV will look at back side passivation. This, says Natcore, is critical to enabling production of long-term, high-performance silicon solar cells.
The final area of research will be on epitaxial growth, a new technology, explains the company, for the production of wafers with reusable silicon substrates.
Additionally, Natcore and MX Holding say they intend to work with third-party investors, in opening a new photovoltaic panel manufacturing facility, which will produce and sell the cells developed through the JV.
"The third-party investors are a consortium of MX Holding and five other Italian solar panel manufacturers who now buy their solar cells from Asian producers. It is expected that consortium members would consume the entire solar cell output derived from the new manufacturing entity, which would utilize Natcore’s existing LPD technologies. New technologies will be phased in as they’re developed," said the statement.
Natcore president and CEO Chuck Provini added, "Italy has emerged as a major solar panel production center in Europe, and we believe our new ventures here – and in China, where we also have a joint venture – will serve as a launching pad for global sales of our equipment and technology."
No further details were released and the companies could not be contacted for further comment.
High efficiency cells in demand
At PV Taiwan held in Taipei last week, the topic of high efficiency solar cells was discussed at great length.
Neo Solar’s Sam Hong spoke at length at a CEO Forum held on the first day about the need for higher efficiency cells, as did OCI’s Minkyu Lim.
"High efficiency cells are in shortage," Hong told the audience. He believes that there is "strong" demand for such product at the moment, and that only companies with high efficiencies can gain a better market position. Possible reasons for this demand, he said, are attractive feed-in tariffs for PV rooftop applications and an oversupply of low efficiency cells.