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Recovering Europe´s PHotovoltaics LEadership through high Concentration Technology

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - REPHLECT (Recovering Europe´s PHotovoltaics LEadership through high Concentration Technology)

Reporting period: 2018-02-01 to 2018-04-30

The People’s Republic of China path towards cheap silicon PV modules has been successful up to now. Impressive cost reductions have been achieved by Chinese manufacturers in the last decade. This to a big extent through state-funded massive investments in capacity scale-up, devised to attend unsustainable subsidized markets worldwide, this frequently resulting in oversupply and dumping.

In despite of this, solar PV electricity only accounts for less than 1% of the global electricity supply and a maximum penetration of 5% in the next 10 yrs. is envisioned by prospective agencies (Bloomberg New Energy Outlook, 2015).

We firmly believe that an innovative combination of advanced High Concentration PV (HCPV) technology and a close to the end-market business model, has the potential to become a paradigm changer holding the promise to achieve the ultimate pervasiveness of large scale solar electricity.

With its proven 18% learning rate at a systems level vs. 12% of silicon-based PV and 11% of CSP (Concentrated Solar Thermal), HCPV is currently the solar technology with the highest cost reduction potential. Furthermore, its conversion efficiency increases 1% every year with cells expected to reach 50% before 2020. This together with its best-in-class temperature coefficient and its dual axis tracking, already provides up to three times more energy per unit surface than silicon based PV in the highly sun-irradiated regions of the world.

Additionally, BSQ Solar’s technology has been especially conceived for high tolerance assembly processes, both at the module and sun tracker level. This, joined to the much lesser use of semiconductor solar cells in HCPV, allows the transfer of up to 80% of its production close to the end markets, and opens the path to a compelling and truly global alternative to the present Chinese-centered way of doing PV, presenting superior advantages in terms of, involved logistics, local job creation, and plant construction and maintenance.

To enable this vision, BSQ Solar is developing a modular low cost module assembly line, as well as the methodology for the optimal implementation of local manufacturing and supply chain, both at the module and sun tracker level. These manufacturing capabilities will be developed by the so-called Satellite Production Centers (SPCs). On the other hand, the most CAPEX demanding part, the HCPV compact receivers, containing encapsulated multi-junction high-efficiency cells and its optical coupling stage, will be produced by BSQ Solar and supplied to the SPC’s network.

Ultimately, the REPHLECT business model seeks to replicate the white box paradigm which introduced the absolute commoditization of the computer hardware industry, by leveraging the solar electricity technology providing the fastest learning curve and the best-fit solution for the solar-rich regions of the world.
After 30 months of running, the REPHLECT project has achieved the following results:

- The Module Assembly Line (MAL) and Receiver Manufacturing Line (RML) have been developed and built. Production of sample units of receiver blocks and modules have been carried out with them, these being successful from a functional and performance point of view.

- Technology transfer for both module assembly and sun tracker manufacturing has been completed. Construction of first SPC hosting a MAL has been completed in cooperation with Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane (Morocco). This includes training of local personnel and identification of local supply chain for the manufacturing of both modules and trackers.

- Manufacturing of modules and trackers to be installed in the SPC validation PPP (Pilot Power Plant) in Morocco is presently in progress.

- Product design-for-manufacturing review carried out, along with supply chain shift towards EU. New HCPV system design oriented towards the rooftop PV market - commercial name PowerTree - is proposed as spearhead to break into the market. First prototype of this novel design has been carried out and is about to be installed in a single family dwelling.

- In collaboration with Tecnalia Ventures, the renowned PV market analyst Paula Mints, and the European Commission coaching services, a full market analysis has been carried out. Exploitation and commercialization plan and business plan is being completed.

- Numerous project dissemination actions carried out. Sponsoring and attendance to conferences and workshops. Social media activity and periodic Newsletter. Pitching events.

- Obtainment of quality certificates, for both product (IEC 62817) and processes (ISO 9001 and 14001) has been completed. IEC62108 certification is in progress.

- Several MOUs and Agency agreements signed with international partners to scale up the REPHLECT manufacturing concept, up to several tens of MWs/yr., in high DNI countries or markets that bonus local content of PV manufacturing.

- Technology/Manufacturing Life Cycle Assessment carried out in a Northern African scenario.
In the last five years the European Union has lost most of its formerly dominant PV industrial fabric. China through strong political and financial support, has seized leadership both of the industry and the market. If the EU wants to recover its previous leadership, it cannot imitate the Chinese way, not having the sociopolitical structures for it. Instead, disruptive technologies and game changing ways of doing business should be the basis for regeneration actions.

High Concentration Photovoltaics is today a fully mature technology that has achieved an 85% cost reduction in the last 5 years with no specific market support. Much of this progress of HCPV has been achieved thanks to entrepreneurial and research efforts in the EU. REPHLECT is based on the strong belief that HCPV can offer Europe and the world a new way of dealing with PV.

Due to its much lesser use of semiconductor devices than Si-based PV and to BSQ's HCPV technology counting on system components that allow high-tolerance local manufacturing, REPHLECT proposes and demonstrates the migration of assembly lines to so-called Satellite Production Centers (SPCs) located in highly irradiated areas, to produce its HCPV systems close to the natural end markets. The most IP sensitive and CAPEX demanding part, the HCPV receivers, will be produced at BSQ’s factories in Europe and supplied to the SPC’s network. Up to 80% of the end product can be assembled in these SPCs, that can be built at four times less CAPEX in a than silicon PV equivalent. Production scaling is then achieved through a wide network of SPCs that closely follow demand – lean manufacturing – and are strategically located close to the demand centers, taking advantage of local content bonuses and avoiding import penalties. SPCs, would not only host assembly operations, but also taking advantage of their proximity to the end-customer, would have its own local sales force, installation crews and equipment and post-sales support. In this way local SPCs would also take the role of retailer stores.

In other words, REPHLECT intends to replicate the white box paradigm which introduced the ultimate commoditization of the computer hardware industry, and challenge in this way the present PV industry model based on the massive use of semiconductor material and the huge centralized upscaling in state-controlled economies.