NexWafe secures $9.4 million for kerfless wafer project, targets 50% cost reductions

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Fraunhofer ISE spinoff, NexWafe has secured €8 million in financing for the commercialization of its kerfless wafers.

Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV) led the round, which included Green Gateway Fund 2 (GGF2), advised by Wermuth Asset Management GmbH (WAM), and existing investor Lynwood (Schweiz) AG.

The funds will be used for the commissioning of NexWafe’s 5 MW wafer production line in Freiburg, Germany.

CEO Stefan Reber tells pv magazine NexWafe is targeting cost reductions of 50%. Energy consumption is also expected to decrease by at least this much he says.

While the pilot line is expected to be complete by Q2 2018, says Reber, the plans announced in 2015 to ramp up to 250 MWp are still in the pipeline. “Very quickly” after the pilot line is up and running, the team will look to secure financing for the next stage.

While Reber couldn’t comment on the specific details, he says around €50 million to €60 million will be required for the large-scale production facility, and that there is “lots of interest” for NexWafe’s kerfless wafers, which will help secure future financing.

Overall, he sees a big market for kerfless wafers, due to the “significant” advantages they bring.

With NexWafe’s EpiWafer process, “crystalline silicon layers are deposited on seed wafers and subsequently detached to produce freestanding wafers, of any desired thickness without kerf loss,” explains the company in a statement released.

This method sees four production steps in wafer manufacturing skipped, says Reber, and replaced with one major, silicon deposition, one. It makes the total process resource efficient, he adds.

“NexWafe’s technology provides superior quality monocrystalline wafers that are a drop-in replacement for current products,” comments Bruce Niven, Chief Investment Officer of SAEV, adding, “We are excited to be leading this investment into NexWafe at a time when the photovoltaic market continues to expand and with the Middle East region poised for accelerating growth in renewables deployment.”

Reber concludes by saying that while NexWafe is looking to address the total wafer market, the company will start with high efficiency mono-crystalline wafers, as this is said to be “the quickest growth area.”

In March 2016, Switzerland’s Lynwood said it would invest €6 million in NexWafe’s EpiWafer technology. Meanwhile, Reber told pv magazine in 2015 that the Fraunhofer Venture would supply under €1 million in seed funding.