Shell and Akzo Nobel have signed a joint venture agreement to develop low cost solar cell technology. They aim to pilot processes for the mass production of flexible solar cells which they predict will undercut traditional solar cell technologies. They hope also to kick start the market into rapid expansion, helping them to overtake market leader BP.
Shell believes that solar cells will represent a major source of energy by 2060 and has been involved in a series of deals, including a link up earlier this year with Siemens and Eon. However solar photovoltaic generation is currently one of the most expensive sources of electricity. Power from solar cells costs around $0.19/kWh compared to roughly $0.05/kWh for wind generation.
Current methods of manufacturing solar cells are labour intensive, say Shell. The new method will, on an automated production line, apply a thin solar cell coating virtually continuously to rolls of flexible foil. Faster, cheaper production methods could help stimulate a broader and much larger market, the companies hope.
Shell has said it intends to spend between $500 million and $1 billion on developing new energy business over the next five years. This will focus primarily on solar, wind and geothermal power, and on hydrogen.