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CSEM opens new PV development center

18 Feb 2013

Center of excellence in Neuchâtel to receive CHF19 million in funding from Swiss government over coming years.

A new photovoltaics research and development center is up and running in Switzerland, thanks to generous backing from the country’s government.

The Photovoltaic Systems Center in Neuchâtel officially began operations at the start of the year, as a new division of the Centre Suisse d' Electronique et de Microtechnique (CSEM). Dedicated to applied research and technology transfer in the domain of solar energy, the center has received CHF 19 million of government funding for the period 2013-2016.

Its key objectives are to speed up the industrialization process, develop new generations of PV cells and modules, and support the transition to a national energy system in which solar power will play “an essential role”, says the new lab.

“In view of the immense pressure on the solar sector worldwide and despite a good starting position in this sector, it is essential that Switzerland establish platforms that are able to support R&D and technology transfer activities,” it adds in a statement announcing its arrival.

“The country needs a professional and sustainable structure that can respond to the need for rapid industrialization of research results (and transfer to industry) and provide effective support to all involved in the development of renewable energies.”

The new center becomes the official PV laboratory of the EPFL’s Institute of Microtechnology in Neuchâtel. The latter is already internationally recognized as being at the forefront of PV technologies including high-performance crystalline and thin-film silicon solar cells, as well as modules and systems.

Physically, the new PV center will be housed in the same building as CSEM’s microsystems technology operations, close to EPFL’s new microtechnology building, known as Microcity. “This geographical proximity will help speed up the transition from R&D to the market for current and future generations of PV systems,” CSEM said.

Professor Christophe Ballif heads up the lab which, within four years, is expected to employ between 40 and 50 people.

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