Gates-backed solar company seeks to boost power output in merger

A solar-technology firm backed by the Bill Gates-led Breakthrough Energy Ventures is seeking to boost output of photovoltaic panels as much as 30 per cent by joining forces with a company developing an advanced cell material.

Massachusetts-based 1366 Technologies Inc., which makes wafers for solar cells, is merging with Hunt Perovskite Technologies LLC, according to a statement. The new company will be called CubicPV and has lined up $25 million in funding from backers including Hunt Energy Enterprises LLC, First Solar Inc. and Breakthrough.

The deal combines two complementary technologies that offer the potential to create more efficient solar panels. Typical designs now use silicon to convert sunlight into electricity. CubicPV plans to produce photovoltaic products that will use Hunt’s perovskite technology, layered atop a silicon wafer developed by 1366. The result is a so-called tandem structure that has both perovskite and silicon components generating electricity. That’s intended to boost output, lower costs and means installers would require less space.

“You reduce the amount of land that you need,” said Frank van Mierlo, who was chief executive officer of 1366 and is now head of CubicPV. “You make every installation a little cheaper.”

The company is planning a factory in India that will cost $300 million to $350 million. It’s expected to be able to produce up to 2 gigawatts of wafers and cells a year and may be in service by September 2023.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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