Oxford PV sprinting in race for first perovskite production line

UK-based perovskite specialist Oxford PV has announced the purchase of its first solar cell manufacturing equipment from Swiss company Meyer Burger, on the way to building out a specialist production line with a capacity of 250 MW, by the end of 2020.

The first purchase is a turnkey 100 MW silicon heterojunction solar cell line, with which Oxford PV plans to start making solar panels with perovskite as soon as it can – using its latest £65mn investment funds to kick off production. The perovskite materials are key to significantly increasing the efficiency of solar panels.

It will follow this order up with another purchase for the perovskite part of the process, which will then be integrated with the silicon line, so that it can make perovskite-on-silicon cells. It is in a race against time to be one of the first to market, as about a dozen firms chase the perovskite transformation of solar – which is expected to be one technology that will crash the pricing of solar panels. Right now, it appears to be in the lead.

Oxford PV’s phased ordering of equipment will continue over the coming months, and will include the order of a second silicon heterojunction solar cell line and associated perovskite top cell production equipment. All of this equipment will be installed at Oxford PV’s industrial site in Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany.

Back in March, Oxford PV announced detailed plans for volume production when it announced a framework deal with Meyer Burger and new investment. There are rivals in Japan, China, the US and Poland, to name a few, including Microquanta Semiconductor and WonderSolar, all of which are planning to use perovskite panels or perovskite-on-silicon.

Perovskite compounds consist of minerals that contain the namesake perovskite structure, which can be manipulated to add new chemicals to the crystals. The original perovskite was calcium titanate, discovered in 1839, but over time, its crystal structure was found in many other similar element combinations that mimic its properties. Today we use lead or tin halide in these structures, for the light harvesting layer.

Starting as curiosity around 2009, various universities have pushed to increase efficiency up of solar panels using these perovskite compounds, and today they have reached 28% – when perovskite is used in tandem with silicon. This combination has been described as the fastest-advancing solar technology to date, with the potential of even higher efficiencies at exceptionally low production costs, all on the verge of commercial production.

Frank Averdung, CEO at Oxford PV said, “the success of our funding round and the quality of the new investors, validates the commercial readiness of our technology. We now have the funds to move into manufacturing and accelerate market introduction. The production line we are installing in Germany, to manufacture perovskite-on-silicon tandem solar cells, will be the first of its kind anywhere in the world. This is a significant moment for Oxford PV and our perovskite photovoltaic technology.”

The March round of investment included a significant new investment from China’s Goldwind, plus existing shareholders that already included Equinor and Legal & General Capital.