The largest roll-to-roll flexible thin film solar manufacturing facility in the world has now opened in Massachusetts after several years of research and development.
The state of the art photovoltaic manufacturing facility uses PowerPlastic® technology developed by Konarka which originally started with the work of the late Dr. Sukant Tripathy, an internationally known polymer materials scientist, provost at UMASS Lowell and founder of the Plastic Innovation Center and Dr. Alan Heeger, Konarka's chief scientist, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2000.
Their ground-breaking discoveries led to Konarka's manufacturing process at relatively low temperatures, which enables the use of low-cost plastic substrate films.
Patented PowerPlastic® is a thin, lightweight, and very flexible material that will serve as an integrated low-cost source of power for portable devices, on and off-grid systems, and for structures - proprietary semi-conductor organic polymers that exhibit low cost, abundant supply, and low toxicity have been developed.
Konarka's facility is capable of producing in excess of 10 million square meters of material per year with future potential of over a gigawatt of flexible plastic solar modules per year to produce Power Plastic for indoor, portable, outdoor and building integrated applications claims Konarka.
"Since 2001, Konarka has taken revolutionary lab discoveries from its founding scientists to pilot production for initial customers and now to full-scale manufacturing with the near future capacity of one gigawatt per year, which could contribute to the power and electricity needs of our nation and the avoidance of CO2 emissions," says Rick Hess, president and CEO at Konarka. "As one of the original recipients of the Solar American Initiative (SAI) awards in 2007, Konarka is furthering the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) vision to reach its goal of making solar electricity from photovoltaics cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity."
The 250,000 square foot building that was previously the site for Polaroid Corporation's most advanced printing technologies was retrofitted and will immediately begin initial production of Power Plastic. The company will also further develop and advance nano-enabled polymer photovoltaic materials that are lightweight, flexible and more versatile than traditional solar materials.
The leading technology and process engineering teams from Polaroid have now been hired by Konarka who also plan to hire over 100 additional employees as production increases toward capacity over the next two to three years.
Over $100 million from leading venture capital and private equity funds has been secured, as well as $18 million in government agency research grants from the U.S. and Europe.
Under the Massachusetts Economic Development Incentive Program (EDIP) Konarka has also partnered with the City of New Bedford to become Certified. Under the EDIP, Certified Projects receive favorable state and local tax treatment in exchange for committing to certain job creation and private investment criteria. The EDIP is designed to increase economic activity within the Commonwealth's identified Economic Target Areas (ETAs) and the City of New Bedford has historically utilized the EDIP as one of its key economic development planning tools.
For more attend Printed Electronics USA 2008.