The Poor Investor

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Natcore’s Latest PR- Black Silicon to Slash Solar Cell Production Costs by 23.5%

Reprint of Latest Press Release:

“Making plans to take our technology to market” -Provini

 Red Bank, N.J. — (October 30, 2013) — An independent study has concluded that Natcore Technology’s (NXT.V; NTCXF.PK; 8NT) black silicon technology could reduce silicon solar cell production costs by up to 23.5%.

The savings derive from a streamlining of the production process whereby a silicon wafer is processed into a black silicon solar cell.

To make solar cells, manufacturers typically acquire silicon wafers from an outside source. Since these wafers are cut from a large ingot, they usually have saw damage, which must be removed. To make a conventional solar cell, manufacturers must first remove the saw damage, then texturize the wafer surface, and then apply an antireflective coating.

To make a black silicon cell using Natcore’s proprietary process, manufacturers would be able to replace the texture etch with a black silicon etch which in itself would create a highly effective antireflective coating.

Thus the most expensive part of the solar cell process – the equipment and material costs associated with high-temperature chemical vapor deposition of a silicon nitride antireflective coating – is completely eliminated.

Natcore asked analysts at the country’s leading black silicon research facility to quantify the cost saving to be realized from omitting these steps. Using a “bottom up” manufacturing cost estimating methodology, the analysts calculate the production cost of a conventional silicon solar cell to be 17¢ per watt. In comparison, the study projected that cells made using Natcore’s black silicon process would cost about 13¢ per watt.

The resulting savings of 3¢/watt – 4¢/watt represent a production cost reduction of up to 23.5%. “When solar companies are scrambling to save fractions of a cent, a saving of 3¢ – 4¢ per watt is momentous,” says Dr. Dennis Flood, Natcore’s co-founder and Chief Technology Officer.

In addition to the dramatic cost reduction, Natcore’s test, which was conducted using monocrystalline silicon, had an important environmental benefit: it eliminated the need for silane, a highly toxic gas that combusts upon exposure to air. Natcore may plan a similar test using polycrystalline silicon at a later date.

“We knew there would be a cost saving,” says Chuck Provini, Natcore’s president and CEO. “We were surprised that it was so large. In fact, production-cost savings of this magnitude will likely overshadow any power gains of black silicon and will make Natcore’s technology a must-have for the world’s solar cell manufacturers.

“To put it into perspective,” he notes, “a recent article by Shyam Mehta, senior solar analyst of GTM Research (‘Technology not materials to drive down Chinese solar costs,’ August 2013), predicts that Chinese manufacturers will be able to cut prices by only one cent in the next year or so. We could quadruple those savings in one fell swoop. We feel so optimistic about this development that we’ve begun making plans to take our technology to market.”

“The full cost of a solar cell is the sum of two parts: the cost of the silicon wafer and the cost of the processing steps required to turn the wafer into a working solar cell,” says Flood. “Cell manufacturers have no control over the cost of the silicon wafers they buy. As a result they are always looking for ways to control their production costs, but with a very important caveat:  cost cutting must not lower cell performance in any way.  Natcore’s black silicon processing technology results in solar cells that meet or exceed the industry’s requirement and at the same time provide a spectacular reduction in finished cell cost. Natcore’s technology can easily be retrofitted into existing solar cell production lines and can just as easily be incorporated into a new line. Black silicon seems poised to become the industry’s standard approach.”

Message from Natcore’s CEO

Last post I wrote about Natcore Technology. The president wrote a message to shareholders on the website that I thought was important enough to share considering my previous post. Here it is below:

I think it was the 1970s when I first realized that it was no longer possible to buy a television set that was made in America.
As time went on, I began to notice other products that had suffered a similar fate: stereo equipment, digital cameras, and small appliances immediately come to mind. I’m sure you could add to the list.
And I realized this: Whoever owns the technology owns the industry.
We at Natcore are determined that the solar industry will not go the way of the transistor radio. For that reason, much of our time is spent in developing and protecting our solar technology. We are determined that the solar industry will be based on our home soil.
We’ll soon convene a series of meetings with our scientific brain trust, whom we believe are the greatest solar scientists in the world today. This distinguished cadre includes:
Dr. Dennis Flood, Natcore co-founder and Chief Technology Officer. A NASA veteran, with more than 30 years’ experience in developing solar cell and array technology for both space and terrestrial applications.
Dr. Andy Barron, Natcore co-founder. The Charles W. Duncan, Jr.-Welch Chair of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science at Rice University, as well as a visiting Professor at the University of Wales.
Dr. David Levy, Natcore Director of Research & Technology. A Chemical Engineering PhD, with a minor in Electrical Engineering, from MIT, then 20 years as a research scientist at Eastman Kodak.
Dr. Daniele Margadonna, Chairman, Natcore advisory board. Chief Technology Officer of MX Group SpA in Villasanta, Italy. An international expert in the solar photovoltaic industry with extensive experience in the planning and construction of turnkey photovoltaic plants.
Dr. David Carlson, Natcore advisory board. Until his recent retirement, the chief scientist of BP Solar, for whom he managed future technology programs and the intellectual property system. He invented the amorphous silicon solar cell at RCA Laboratories
Our multitalented technicians—Ted Zubil, Rich Topel and Wendy Ahearn– will participate, too. They’re an impressive bunch: they have 26 patents among them.
The meetings will be held at our Research and Development Center in Rochester, NY. Their purpose can be expressed in these questions: What are the strengths of our technology? What are the weaknesses? How can we maximize the strengths and fix the weaknesses? How can we most quickly move our technology from the lab to the production line?
Incidentally, we’ve finally consolidated all of our R&D work in Rochester. So there will be no more need for routine travel to university labs in Ohio, Arizona, and Texas. (Just to let you know how much money this will save us, we’re paying for Dr. Margadonna’s flight from Italy with airline miles accumulated from our past travel.)
In my next President’s message, I’ll report on the results of these meetings.
Chuck Provini, President, CEO & Director

Disclosure: Long NXT.V

Insights for the Long-Term Investor

Dear readers,

I just wanted to draw everyone’s attention to an article I came across recently:

I think you will find this to be a valuable article.

An excerpt:

“This punishing volatility has understandably dissuaded many investors – including individual investors saving for retirement– from putting their money to work. Also weighing on the minds of investors is the “lost decade,” a time period covering roughly the fi rst ten years of the current century when equity investments essentially netted zero returns. Both are understandable concerns, but I would suggest that giving up on equities would be a big mistake. Ownership of equity can be expected to give the highest return available to the retirement investor.”


The Poor Investor

Note: For those who may be curious as to the lack of posts or content on this blog, my philosophy is that quality always trumps quantity.  I refuse to post anything unless I feel that it adds significant value to the individual investor.  Also, in this day and age we are burdened with information to the extent that no one has nearly enough time to absorb all that one would like.  With this in mind, I am using a strong filter for all the posts and content here.

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