Semprius Prints World Record Solar Cells
Solar energy has been a roller coaster ride for investors over the past 5 years. Investors who wanted to purchase a diversified solar ETF five years ago may have invested in the Guggenheim Solar ETF (NYSEARCA:TAN) when it debuted in April of 2008. Those same investors would have suffered a 94% loss by January 2013. However, should an investor have purchased TAN in January 2013, they would be up more than 130% today on their TAN position. Solar has now become economically viable, and one company looking to take advantage of this emerging growth opportunity is Semprius.
Founded in 2005, North Carolina based Semprius has taken in over $49 million in funding so far from the likes of ARCH Venture Partners, Intersouth Partners, Illinois Ventures, Siemens, In-Q-Tel, and others in addition to a grant from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of around $8 million. The founder of Semprius and previous winner of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant, John Rogers, is also the founder of MC10, the stretchable electronics company we highlighted several days ago.
The World’s Smallest Solar Cell
Semprius claims to use the world’s smallest solar cell, which is approximately the size of a pencil point, to create solar modules with unmatched cost and performance advantages. In September 2013, Semprius stated that they set a new world record for photovoltaic module efficiency, reaching 35.5 percent (active area). The below graph puts into perspective just how this efficiency compares to more commonly used multicrystalline silicon and thin film solar cells:
With the current average solar cell efficiency of 15% being sufficient enough to power a typical house, the level of solar cell efficiency achieved by Semprius could allow homeowners to realize some handsome profits through net metering. Semprius not only offers world record efficiencies, but also a low-cost production method using their “micro-transfer printing technology”. This “micro-transfer printing technology” seems to be a core value proposition for Semprius as they are also looking to license it for non-solar applications such as flat- panel displays, flexible electronics, large-area sensors, and RF devices. In 2012, Semprius began high volume commercial production of their solar cells at their manufacturing facility in Henderson, North Carolina.
Semprius has strong backing, world record-breaking solar cell efficiency, and a claimed, novel low-cost production process. The question remains if Semprius can scale their business to meet the ever growing needs of the solar industry while maintaining their low cost of production.
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