[Column] Will Alligators Save Thin-film Si PV Cell Makers?

Apr 2, 2010
Motonobu Kawai, Nikkei Electronics

Due to the price decline of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells, thin-film silicon PV cell makers are having a tough time.

However, Sun Well Solar Corp, a subsidiary of CMC Magnetics Corp (Taiwanese optical disc maker), is now proposing a new application of thin-film silicon PV cells.

"Some people say that, in this times of food shortage, we should make a farm if we have a place to set up solar panels," the company said. "I agree with that. That's why we decided to make a 'solar farm' to have solar panels and a farm at the same place."

Sun Well Solar installed see-through thin-film silicon PV cells on the roof of a plastic greenhouse in which vegetables are grown. It is easy to make see-through thin-film silicon PV cells by, for example, using a laser-scribing process. The solar farm takes advantage of such a merit of thin-film silicon PV cells.

The company claims that the module conversion efficiency of its see-through thin-film silicon PV cell is about 6%, which is higher than that of other companies' products, because of its original method of structuring the apertural area.

Sun Well Solar has already started an experiment to find what types of vegetables are suited to be grown in the solar farm. Solar lights with wavelengths longer than 550nm can pass through the see-through PV cells, and they include the light necessary for photosynthesis and infrared light that warms the inside of the greenhouse.

In addition to vegetables, the company is now considering farming alligators for food because they grow up faster in a green house. Someday, photovoltaic power plants that can farm vegetables and alligators might become the revival measures for thin-film silicon PV cell makers.