NEWARK, Del., June 12, 2002 — AstroPower Inc. announced initial success of its joint development program with Elkem aimed at establishing a proprietary purification process for solar-grade silicon, the raw material used to manufacture solar cells.
Using an improved material supply specification over metallurgical-grade silicon, this process has produced first commercial-quality solar cells as part of an ongoing testing and verification program.
This achievement marks a milestone in the company’s technical cooperation agreement with Elkem, the world’s largest producer of silicon metal. The agreement was signed in December 2000.
AstroPower and Elkem have each developed a series of cost-effective proprietary processes that convert quartz into feedstock for AstroPower’s proprietary Silicon-Film™ process. Together, they plan to integrate these processes and expect to reach initial industrial-scale volumes by the end of 2003 or early 2004.
The solar power industry depends on scrap silicon from the semiconductor industry for the manufacture of solar cells. However, this by-product silicon feedstock has been a constraint to solar industry growth, as it is both high in cost and limited in supply. AstroPower and Elkem have begun to break the growth barrier by developing this dedicated solar-grade silicon manufacturing process and, thus, creating a new large-volume source of cost-effective solar-grade silicon feedstock.
“Removing these raw material constraints will enable AstroPower — and eventually the solar power industry as a whole — to better meet the demand for solar power technology,” said Dr. Allen Barnett, President and CEO of AstroPower. “Demand is increasing at a rapid rate as more and more mainstream consumers are beginning to generate their own electricity at home. With this new source of supply for raw material used to produce solar cells, AstroPower will have the silicon feedstock required to continue its rapid growth rate. We plan on working with Elkem and others to develop a material supply stream to bridge our Silicon-Film™ supply needs until this new feedstock process has reached full industrial scale in 2005.”
Due to the critical nature of this material to the company’s growth plans, AstroPower plans to qualify feedstock from other suppliers in the long term.
“We’re pleased that we’ve been able to realize this milestone in our cooperation with AstroPower,” said Christian Dethloff, Vice President, Elkem Solar. “Although we’re pleased to announce this success, we’re already turning our attention to the future. We look forward to working with AstroPower to further develop this material for the solar power industry.”
Headquartered in Newark, Delaware, AstroPower is the world’s largest independent manufacturer of solar electric power products, and one of the world’s fastest-growing solar electric power companies. AstroPower develops, manufactures, markets and sells a range of solar electric power generation products, including solar cells, modules, and panels as well as its SunChoice™ pre-packaged systems for the global marketplace. Solar electric power systems provide a clean, renewable source of electricity in both off-grid and on-grid applications. For more information, please visit www.astropower.com.
Elkem is the world’s largest producer of silicon metal, serving the aluminum, chemical, electronic and solar industry. Silicon metal is produced at Elkem Alloy in West Virginia and at the Norwegian plants Elkem Bremanger, Elkem Fiskaa Silicon, Elkem Meraker and Elkem Thamshavn applying the most advanced manufacturing technologies. In addition, Elkem is a recognized producer of aluminum, carbon products and microsilica and is the western world’s leading supplier of ferrosilicon. Elkem is one of Norway’s most important industrial companies, and is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange as well as on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. For more information, please visit www.elkem.no.