For more than 30 years, solar photovoltaics (PV) technology has tried to feasibly compete with coal-fired power generation as a source of grid tied electricity—with limited success. However, with continued advancements in technology and the rising price of fossil fuel-powered energy, a path to grid parity for solar PV exists. Some analysts argue that 100% of our current energy demands could be met with a mere 1% of our land area blanketed with solar cells. For these reasons, grid-connected solar PV represented the fastest growing energy technology on the world market through 2009. The question is—how do we reduce the cost of producing solar PV while increasing production throughput? Syracuse University partner Antek is working to solve this dilemma.
In January of 2008, Anthony Terrinoni of Antek was connected by the Syracuse Center of Excellence with SU Professor Eric Schiff concerning an opportunity to collaborate on research into a novel method of solar cell fabrication. In the standard process, thin wafers of silicon and phosphorous are heated in large ovens and exposed to boron gas. Through extensive research, the team has discovered a process that involves “spritzing” the wafers with a proprietary mixture of chemicals—which could reduce production costs by 10 to 20%. Antek’s proprietary manufacturing process not only reduces overall cost of production, but also minimizes carbon emissions associated with the process and results in an increase in open-circuit voltage compared to current solar PV cells on the market.
With funding from SyracuseCoE, Antek has produced a prototype solar cell that demonstrates the reduced production costs, and has also proven the thin film layer to be durable and resistant to environmental impact. The company is currently exploring a path to market and was recently accepted into Syracuse’s Clean Tech Center. Antek also recognized the importance of “think global, buy local.” By partnering not only with local distributors, but also with local module manufacturers, Antek envisions that they will be able to create a packaged solar PV product comprised entirely of technologies developed in New York State—creating high-value technical jobs in the region. “The Center of Excellence was the spark at the inception of the solar cell project, having supported the research and development stage, and now assisting with its commercialization,” says Terrinoni. “In all aspects of the product life cycle, the CoE has been a model partner and has showed its commitment to fostering positive economic change in the local area.”
In February 2010, work began on increasing solar cell performance and the development of a business plan/investor presentation. An intern from the Johnson School, Benjamin Barrington, brought in-depth knowledge of the solar industry, allowing for the rapid completion of both. As of September 2010, Antek is attempting to raise capital for a demonstration solar panel.