Electrabel, TotalFinaElf, IMEC and Soltech have established a company called Photovoltech to produce solar photovoltaic cells and modules for solar power systems. Electrabel, with Soltech, will hold 42.5 per cent of the new company, TotalFinaElf will hold 42.5 per cent and IMEC will control the remaining 15 per cent.

A new production process developed by IMEC will be licensed to the joint venture to enable photovoltaic cells to be made from polycrystalline silicon. Photovoltech will set up a fabrication plant in Tienen, Belgium, to exploit this process.

Soltech will then incorporate these photovoltaic modules into application-specific photovoltaic systems for telecommunications, weather stations, navigation buoys, road signs, electrification of housed and villages in developing countries and grid connected system integrated into residential and other buildings.

Construction of the fabrication plant is expected to take around 18 months, and production is scheduled to start in the middle of 2003. The annual capacity will be 2.5-3.8 million units, equivalent to between 6 MW and 9 MW of generating capacity. The estimated cost of the development is ยค10 million.