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Jun 5th, 2014
Will flexible solar cell succeed in the PV market?
Yole Développement interviewed Rich Kapusta, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Alta Devices, GaAs solar cell developer. In 2013, Alta Devices achieved 30.8% efficiency record with a dual junction technology based on GaAs/InGaP materials.
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According to Yole Développement technology and applications analysis (detailed in the new Emerging and Innovative Approaches in Photovoltaics report), Alta Devices’ approach is unique of its genre. Actually, the use of III-V semiconductors in dual-junction configuration and removal of rigid substrate results in a flexible & lightweight solar cell with very high efficiency. Such products, once the manufacturing costs lowered, might open a new field of PV applications, such as powerful PV chargers for portable devices or for automotive applications.

Yole Développement: Can you present us the activities of Alta Devices?
Rich Kapusta:
Alta Devices is a thin film solar cell manufacturer specializing in ultra-high efficiency, thin and lightweight solar sheets used in applications that move or can be carried in order to extend the battery life of that system.  Examples include automotive, consumer electronics, sensors, wearables, aircraft, etc.

YD: What is the status of development of Alta Devices products for PV business? What are the main advantages of your technology?
We are ramping production now.  Our main advantage is that we hold the world record for solar cell efficiency at 28.8% for single junction and 30.8% for dual junction, and our material is super thin and lightweight, giving us an unmatched power to weight ratio of 1W per gram.

YD: How do you position your products amongst other flexible PV products (made by CIGS companies, for example?) From Yole Développement analysis, your company has better performance and reliability, but also much higher costs. Can you provide for insights on this point?
Our material is 3-5 times more efficient than all other thin and flexible solar cells.  Our prices are higher only because our scale is still small, but over time we plan to be cost competitive with these other technologies. 

YD: What are the targeted applications for such products? What is the potential for manufacturing cost decrease?
Short term target applications is anything with a battery.  If it moves, even better.  We can supply power to a system while it is performing its function thus making the battery last significantly longer than it normally would.  Our potential for cost reduction is realized as we scale our capacity.  Once we have equivalent capacity to other solar materials, our costs will be on par and we will be able to address “traditional” solar applications such as rooftops and utility scale.

YD: In December 2013, China's Hanergy has acquired Alta Devices. What has changed since that time in the company (business, technology improvement)?
No comment.

YD: As Hanergy purchased several other thin film companies (Solibro, MiaSolé, Global Solar Energy – all CIGS technology – not the same as GaAs technology of Alta Devices) during 2012-2013, what is the positioning and matching of Alta Devices with these companies?
No comment.

YD: How do you see the future for the flexible PV cell, for military applications but also for other business?
We believe that the future of the solar industry is with flexible PV.  Once the costs are the same, and the efficiency is higher, there will be no reason to use any other material.

YD: What are the next steps of the development of Alta Devices?
Continue to ramp capacity and scale out the technology.

Rich Kapusta, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Alta Devices
He has over 20 years of experience in engineering, marketing, and business management roles in the cleantech and semiconductor industries.  Rich graduated with a BS in computer engineering and his career includes 14 years in a variety of roles at Cypress, followed by Vice President positions at Sipex, Exar, Actel, and Microsemi prior to joining Alta Devices in 2012.


Picture: Courtesy of Alta Devices


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