Energy Conversion Devices and Bekaert Form Joint Venture to Produce Photovoltaic Cells

April 10, 2000 by Jeff Shepard

Energy Conversion Devices Inc. (ECD, Troy, MI) and N.V. Bekaert S.D. (Belgium) have formed a joint venture into the production of photovoltaic cells and modules based on thin-film technology. With an investment from Bekaert, a leading manufacturer of steel products, a manufacturing plant with an annual capacity of 25MW will be designed and built by ECD. Bekaert also bought out Canon Inc.'s share of ECD joint venture United Solar Systems Corp. The Belgian firm's investment with ECD totaled $84.0 million.

ECD and United Solar have developed the thin-film amorphous silicon alloy multi-junction solar cells. They hold patents in these solar products, as well as flexible solar battery chargers, framed power modules, UNI-SOLAR roofing shingles and metal roofing panels. Their products are claimed to provide more energy per rated watt under normal outdoor conditions. This technology offers high advantages, such as being the only solar cell that does not require glass as support material.

“This joint venture is of prime importance and a deliberate step in Bekaert's renewable energy process," said Raf Decaluwe, CEO of Bekaert. “The large number of patents and technology owned by ECD/United Solar, combined with Bekaert's portfolio of competencies, will push the growth of United Solar and will also trigger the development of new products and new applications in the future."

“The 25MW capacity production equipment, based on ECD's proprietary triple-junction continuous roll-to-roll production technology, will dramatically reduce production cost of photovoltaic products," said Staford R. Ovshinsky, president and CEO of ECD and chairman and CEO of United Solar. “This capacity expansion represents a major step in United Solar's goal of producing photovoltaic products which, in high volume, can be competitive with conventional fuels, a much sought-after solution."