cheetahIndustrial Soitec announced it was informed that the European Commission had given the green light for funding the Cheetah program (Guepard), where it comes to developing a new generation of solar cells with very high efficiency.

This program was selected in April 2012 by the future investment program (LIP) whose management was entrusted to the Agency for Environment and Energy Management (ADEME). In addition to Soitec, appointed project coordinator, Cheetah combines CEA and French SMEs InPACT. All partners are betting a total investment of €68.9 million over five years.

The funding authorization by the European Commission notified the French Government will especially enable Soitec to receive public assistance of €21.3 million.

Soitec currently remains one of the leading global supplier of CPV systems, the solar energy is particularly efficient and competitive in areas with strong sunlight. Using optical lenses that focus light on multi-junction cells, CPV technology achieves a yield more than twice that of standard photovoltaic technologies.

Cheetah project aims a major technological breakthrough “develop a new generation of solar cells, to achieve new levels of conversion of solar energy into electricity.”

With its portfolio of key technologies for the transfer of semiconductor materials, Soitec seems to have many assets to create solar cells say 4 junctions – such assembly being inaccessible with conventional technologies. The recent world record efficiency (44.7%) reached last September with the preliminary work carried out in collaboration with the Fraunhofer ISE, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Centre Berlin institute has somehow validated the relevance of this concept.

“With the Cheetah project, our aim is to allow our CPV technology to achieve unmatched operating efficiency and competitiveness,” said André-Jacques Auberton-Hervé, president of Soitec. “We are very pleased today to receive the approval of the European Commission for this ambitious and strategic program, not only for Soitec, but also for the opportunities it opens in France and Europe. This reflects the credit given to our work and our expertise. We thank the Prime Minister, the Commissioner General for Investment and ADEME for their support and policy support for innovation implementation in the context of Future Investments ” .

CPV technology

CPV technology (“Concentrating PhotoVoltaic”) is among the most efficient and competitive in areas with strong sunlight, areas known to quickly reach grid parity.

It relies on the use of modules formed of two glass plates. On the lower plate, the multijunction cells are mounted. They ensure the conversion of light radiation into electricity, after the light was concentrated 500 times by Fresnel lenses. Made from silicone glass, these lenses are located on the top plate. A metal frame assembles the two plates, forming a CPV module. Several modules are then assembled on two-axis trackers, which track the curve of the sun with an accuracy of 0.1 °.

The efficiency of multi-junction cells used in these CPV systems is critical to optimize their electricity production. Cheetah project therefore aims at developing a new generation of such cells to optimize the conversion of light energy into electricity. The target market for CPV technology is primarily that of large ground stations installed in areas with strong sunlight. This market is growing rapidly: it should represent about 10% of new installations in 2016 (source: IMS, GTM).

Results expected, application and development of the Cheetah program

– Increase the efficiency of the CPV technology Soitec to 37% at the module level.
– Implementation in areas with strong sunlight for solar power high capacity at a cost of producing solar electricity competitive with conventional energies.
– Reduced time to return on energy investment (production time required for solar power to offset the energy that has been spent for its manufacture and construction) to 9 months.
– Reducing the carbon footprint of the CPV system compared to other PV technologies (target: 18 g CO2-eq/kWh).
– Reduction of water consumption (about 15l/MWh for cleaning).
– Land use in parallel as possible (livestock or agriculture).

– CPV technology is the market for solar power plants in regions with strong sunlight, especially for export, for which it is the most suitable and least expensive. The CPV market is currently a niche market targeting countries where solar is emerging with strong growth expected in the next five years growth.

– Improving the efficiency of energy conversion, design and manufacturing systems, as well as of scale related to increased volume effects, Soitec will enable targeting of important export markets based on production of new cells in plant Bernini, near Grenoble.

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