Ecosummit Berlin: Exeger to scale dye-sensitised PV via consumer electronics

Exeger, formerly NLab Solar AB, has revealed its strategy to commercialise Grätzel-cell technology at the Ecosummit conference currently underway in Berlin.

In an attempt to crack the promising but tricky dye-sensitised PV technology, the Swedish firm will produce its organic PV cells for consumer electronics such as e-paper readers — like the Kindle — and wearable technology — such as the FitBit.

While consumer electronics have often been described by PV industry analysts as being niche applications and not a pathway to large scale production, Exeger believes the fast-growing sector can provide it with a pathway to scale before producing dye-sensitised PV cells for building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) applications.

To realise this strategy and provide prototypes for e-paper manufacturers and wearable technology producers, Exeger has installed a production facility for its dye-sensitised PV cells. In March, Exeger inaugurated its 20 MW nameplate fab in Stockholm.

Exeger has raised $30 million in venture capital since it was founded in 2009. Business Developer Alexandre Askmo said supplying the e-paper and wearable market will allow the incorporation of Exeger dye-sensitised cells in high-margin products, in fast-growing market segments.

"If we look at PV in general, by going into BIPV we would be fighting for price-per-watt. Instead we’re going to sell price-per-unit," said Askmo. "The area covered on a wearable electronics or an e-paper reader is very small, so we’re not looking at watts, we’re looking at micro and mili-watts."

Askmo said that a wearable device can be powered with exposure to sunlight of only 10 to 15 minutes per day. For energy efficient e-paper readers, Exeger claims that its dye-sensitised cells will power enough power for even office or household lighting.

"Another advantage of this strategy is it is that the certification process is not nearly as demanding in the consumer electronics market as in the BIPV market and is therefore a much easier first step," said Askmo.

Exeger is one of the companies in the Swedish Energy Agency startup accelerator program. The Agency’s Portfolio Manager, Alexander Bigge Lidgren, said that Exeger’s strategy to commercialise through the consumer electronics industry is the firm’s plan A, but that it is not entirely reliant on it.

"Exeger has lined up a strategy where they have some plan Bs as well, so alternative ways to succeed. But if it can land a few consumer electronic customers that would be Exeger’s preferred way."

Lidgren continued that the Swedish solar startup has contacted the consumer electronics and wearable companies it wishes to work with early and is currently creating protoypes. Exeger plans to complete the installation and calibration of its 20 MW fab throughout 2014, to deliver prototypes in 2015 and commercial production in 2016.