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Joint venture will make solar cells

17 Jun 2002

A Belgian-French joint-venture plans to make 10% of Europe's annual solar cell capacity.

Belgian energy firms Electrabel and Soltech and French oil company TotalFinaElf are joining forces with the Belgian research institute IMEC to commercialize photovoltaic cells.

Called Photovoltech, the new company will make polycrystalline-silicon photovoltaic cells and modules and IMEC will have a 15% stake with the rest of the venture owned by the other companies.

Photovoltech is to build a fabrication plant for photovoltaic cells and modules in Tienen, Belgium. The new production process developed by IMEC and granted in licence to Photovoltech will enable photovoltaic cells to be produced from polycrystalline silicon, at lower cost and with higher efficiency than by conventional technology.

Specialist companies such as Soltech will then incorporate the modules into application-specific photovoltaic systems that will supply electricity for various applications including in grid-connected systems integrated in residential buildings.

Production of photovoltaic cells is scheduled to begin around mid-2003 and the EURO 10 million joint venture plans to employ more than 50 people. The Tienen plant will have an annual capacity of 2.5 to 3.8 million units, representing more than 10% of the European production of solar cells.

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