German wafer maker NexWafe GmbH has established a US subsidiary to evaluate the development of multi-gigawatt-scale solar wafer production.
Nexwafe has an initial target production volume of 6GW of solar wafers using the EpiNex production technology from the company’s facility under construction in Bitterfeld, Germany.
As part of this expansion, NexWafe appointed solar industry veteran Jonathan Pickering as Vice President of Business Development for North America to spearhead US operations. This will also include tapping into the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) for funding.
2023 was the nation’s largest year of solar installations, reaching 33 GW of solar installations. Average annual growth of solar installation of 14 percent is expected between 2023 and 2028.
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The IRA is a key opportunity for the US expansion as a strategic move to reduce vulnerabilities in the solar-wafer supply chain, says NexWafe. The supply chain remains subject to China’s market dominance and potential geopolitical disruption, it says.
The company is actively working on securing strategic partnerships, assessing potential manufacturing locations and the associated regional incentives, and securing offtake agreements for domestic wafer supply.
The company was spun out from Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in 2015 and is a member of the Ultra Low-Carbon Solar Alliance, Solar Power Europe, and the European Solar Manufacturing Council.
It designs, develops and is ramping into production a proprietary process to produce ultra-thin, high-efficiency, monocrystalline, low carbon footprint solar wafers to make photovoltaics more sustainable and efficient.
The process is fully compatible with conventional solar cell manufacturing and offers a 60 percent reduction in energy consumption during manufacturing. The continuous, direct gas-to-wafer manufacturing process also minimizes waste, resulting in wafers that are less expensive than conventional wafers.
NexWafe is developing EpiNex110 wafers with n-type doping and has achieved a cell efficiency of over 24% with 110-130 μm thin wafers. It is also developing tandem wafers that combine silicon and perovskite thin film solar cells.
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“Silicon wafers are critical materials for the energy transition, and Jonathan’s leadership will be key as we embark on establishing gigawatt-scale wafer manufacturing in the U.S.,” said Davor Sutija, CEO of NexWafe. “His extensive experience and proven expertise in solar technology complement the strength of our established leadership team.”
Pickering was previously President of JA Solar Americas, and a former Vice President at Applied Materials. His experience spans the solar value chain from solar wafer and solar cell processing equipment to solar module manufacturing and commercial solar project development.
“Multiple top-tier solar companies have committed to advanced PV cell and module manufacturing at a multi-gigawatt scale across the U.S. But now we see a significant bottleneck in the supply chain for a domestic source of silicon wafers,” said Jonathan Pickering, VP of Business Development, North America, NexWafe.
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“Our breakthrough EpiNex direct ‘gas-to-wafer’ manufacturing process targets this exact opportunity. We are developing a gigawatt-scale facility to manufacture high-performance. American-made, thin silicon wafers to serve our U.S. customers, and we can do so while achieving a 60 percent reduction in the carbon footprint compared to today’s technology.”