Valoe and Solitek join forces to produce IBC cells in Lithuania

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Finnish automation and laser technology company Valoe Corporation and Lithuanian solar module maker Solitek have announced they will jointly produce interdigitated back contact (IBC) solar cells at Solitek’s manufacturing facility in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Valoe said in a press release it acquired the solar cell production business of JCS SoliTek R&D from Solitek parent Global BOD, Scandinavia’s largest ophthalmic prescription lenses and CD/DVD manufacturer.

The Finnish company said it will convert the cell production equipment for the manufacture of IBC cells, with production expected to start in the second half of the year. “Valoe will be able to arrange financing of approx €5 million required to finish the project,” said the company. “The sum includes the remaining part of the purchase price of the business acquired from SoliTek, i.e. approx €3.2 million.”

The automation business added, annual production capacity will initially be around 60 MW, and may double at a later stage after minor investment. “Already approx 20 MW of the new plant’s annual production capacity has been sold for the next two years from the start of the production,” Valoe added.

With the big players

The conversion of the production line for IBC technology will be supported by Germany’s International Solar Energy Research Center Konstanz e.V. (ISC Konstanz), which specializes in IBC technology. “Valoe estimates that the capacity of the company’s 60 IBC cell module will be approx 320-340 Wp, and [for] a bifacial IBC module, [more than] 400 Wp,” the company said.

CEO Iikka Savisalo said: “Now Valoe has a chance to get to the same technology level with LG, Sunpower and Panasonic. Valoe’s back contact module, having a glass-glass structure and IBC cells that have [a] longer economic lifetime, is expected to last more than 40 years.”

The factory’s production line was bought by Valoe from Italian manufacturer Megacell Srl in a liquidation sale in May and was then transferred to SoliTek’s premises in Lithuania. Megacell and ISC Konstanz signed an agreement for the licensing of ISC’s bifacial BiSoN solar cell technology in September 2014. The German research institute had acquired the patents for the BiSoN cell technology from the former Bosch Solar Energy – the PV unit of the German conglomerate.

Baltic and Eastern European market

Solitek said it was entering an expansion and business streamlining phase. “That includes establishing the full vertical business integration model – from solar cell research and development until the final installation of power plants,” said Solitek CEO Vidmantas Janulevičius in a press release, adding the business would target the “residential market in [the] Baltic states and utility scale projects in Eastern Europe”.

Solitek last year announced a plan to expand cell production capacity from 60 MW to 180 MW. At the time, Janulevičius said production would be converted from poly BSF to bifacial cells, with plans to later switch to IBC ZEBRA output. At its Vilnius factory, built in 2013, Solitek produces Poly C-Si and Mono C-Si glass-glass modules, for regular and building integrated PV applications.

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