South Africa – and Africa’s – first semi-commercial plant for producing and marketing a thin-film solar module on was officially opened in Stellenbosch this week.
The module will provide an effective way to convert solar energy into electricity.
Photovoltaic Technology Intellectual Property (PTiP) (Pty) Ltd is the first company in South Africa to convert basic raw materials through 15 production processes into a fully integrated solar energy product – all under one roof.
Depending on the type of glass used, the local content of the panels is between 80% and 90%.
The core aspects of technology and related products were developed and up-scaled over past 20 years.
The new generation thin-film photovoltaic technology was fully developed in South Africa and will now be produced at the Stellenbosch Technopark.
The thin-film module includes a unique homogenous semi-conductor alloy, comprising five chemical elements. The total thickness of the active materials in the thin-film module is only 3 microns, compared to the traditional first-generation silicon technology with a thickness of more than 300 microns.
The development of the technology was initiated by the Physics Department at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in 1993, led by Professor Vivian Alberts.
As a university project, world-class results at laboratory level were already achieved in 2002.
The Department of Science and Technology funded a pilot plant at UJ through the then Innovation Fund, to the tune of R13 million.
In 2011, the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) approved a second round of funding of R20 million to the UJ spin-off company, PTiP.
The TIA funding was backed by an initial R93 million co-funding from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).
The facility currently employs 10 people, excluding building and equipment contractors.
Photovoltaic technology is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. In 2011, thin-film solar photovoltaic technology accounted for 11% of market share and further growth is expected.
The launch was among others attended by Alderman Conrad Sidego, Mayor of Stellenbosch, and Geoffrey Qhena, IDC CEO.