Government offers strong backing to the company due to its ability to drive the growth of the country’s green economy
CAPE TOWN – 9 September 2014 – Based on its recent analysis of the solar photovoltaic market, Frost & Sullivan recognises Photovoltaic Technology Intellectual Property (PTiP) Innovations with the 2014 South Africa Frost & Sullivan Award for Technology Innovation Leadership. PTiP Innovations was created to commercialise the intellectual property and patented technology developed within the University of Johannesburg. Following the development of solar thin-film modules, the company is looking to commercialise the manufacturing process of this entirely South African technology.
The solar PV modules manufactured by PTiP Innovations have a very high local content value of about 80 to 90 per cent, while competitors mostly assemble imported parts. By offering an indigenous PV technology, PTiP Innovation contributes to the development of a new South African green economy, which will also create numerous job opportunities locally.
“The core intellectual property of PTiP Innovations is an innovative process technology aimed at producing homogeneous multiphase semiconductor alloys, which contain five chemical elements – copper, indium, gallium, selenium, sulphur,” said Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Celine Paton. “Various combinations of these alloys are preferred as second-generation semiconductor materials to replace silicon as the base material in PV devices.”
Even though solar thin-film technologies are not new to the market, the company’s process technology is. Not only does it increase the efficiency of the solar PV modules, the manufacturing costs of these thin-film modules are lower than those of standard silicon-based PV modules. Other advantages include: a continuous manufacturing process, excellent stability over an extended period of time in harsh environmental conditions, reduced sensitivity to overheating, and higher energy yield compared to silicon-based modules when there is obstruction/shade.
PTiP Innovations’ partnerships with various departments of the South African government and Singulus Technologies AG, a German solar technology machine equipment supplier, has enabled it to start building a semi-commercial solar thin-film module manufacturing plant. This facility is designed to aid the development and transfer of commercially scalable production processes, products and expertise to commercial licensed partners. The Minister of Science and Technology, Mr Derek Hannekom, officially opened the facility in February 2014. The company has managed to establish a stable production process a mere 4 months after commissioning the plant, which demonstrates the reproducibility and stability of the commercial production processes. Commercial module efficiencies above 10% have been achieved within a record period, which is testimony to the commercial value of the PTiP Technology.
Besides the homogeneity of the semiconductor absorber alloys, the process stands out for its use of commercially available production equipment during the mass production of the modules. This includes the use of in-line sputter processes for the coating of metallic thin films and novel diffusion processes in which H₂Se and H₂S gases are used as reactive species. The combination of a novel processing technology and established semiconductor production equipment translates to a viable and attractive commercial solution.
“PTiP Innovations’ aim is to not only generate revenues from the manufacturing and sale of second-generation solar thin-film modules, but also to assist in creating a green economy in South Africa,” noted Paton. “Furthermore, the company’s establishment of a highly skilled workforce in the solar PV industry creates a competitive advantage for South Africa and helps position it as a regional hub for solar PV manufacturing and related technical expertise.”
Each year, Frost & Sullivan presents this award to the company that has demonstrated uniqueness in developing and leveraging new technologies, which significantly impacts both the functionality and the customer value of the new products and applications. The award lauds the high R&D spend towards innovation, its relevance to the industry and the positive impact on brand perception.
Frost & Sullivan Best Practices awards recognize companies in a variety of regional and global markets for demonstrating outstanding achievement and superior performance in areas such as leadership, technological innovation, customer service and strategic product development. Industry analysts compare market participants and measure performance through in-depth interviews, analysis and extensive secondary research to identify best practices in the industry.
About Photovoltaic Technology Intellectual Property (PTiP) Innovations
The company was founded in 2005 to facilitate the commercial exploitation of intellectual property (IP) and know-how related to novel and innovative semiconductor process technologies in the field of thin film photovoltaic (PV) technologies.
The new and improved PV technology has been developed over a period of more than 20 years at the Department of Physics at the University of Johannesburg. The company has recently entered into strategic partnerships with various departments of the South African Government in order to establish a world-leading PV manufacturing and demonstration facility at Technopark in Stellenbosch. The facility is designed to facilitate the development and transfer of commercially scalable production processes, products and know-how to commercial partners under license.
The key strategic objective of the company is the development of a highly trained and professional PV workforce in South Africa that will form a basis for the establishment of a competitive local PV industry. The PV modules with a local content above 80% are ideally suited for applications in residential, commercial and utility-scale projects.
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