New Photovoltaic Systems Center Becomes Operational as a New Division of CSEM

Posted on February 18, 2013 @ 11:01 am

The new Photovoltaic Systems Center became operational at the beginning of the year in Neuchâtel as a new division of CSEM. Dedicated to applied research and technology transfer in the domain of solar energy, it has received CHF 19 million of funding from the Swiss government for the period 2013-2016.

Back in 2010, before even the Fukushima disaster and Switzerland's decision to abandon nuclear energy, the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) and the management of the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne (EPFL) submitted a proposal to the Swiss government for the creation of a center devoted to photovoltaic energy, to be located in Neuchâtel.

Three years later, the center is up and running, operational as of Jan. 1, 2013. Financed by CHF 19M of training, research & innovation grants from the Swiss government for the period 2013-2016, the objectives of the new Photovoltaic Systems Center (PV-center) will be to speed up the industrialization process, develop the new generations of photovoltaic cells and modules, and support the transition to a national energy system in which solar power will play an essential role.

In view of the immense pressure on the solar sector worldwide (mass production, considerable investment by certain governments in research and technology transfer) and despite a good starting position in this sector, it is essential that Switzerland establish platforms that are able to support R&D and technolgy transfer activities. The country needs a professional and sustainable structure that can respond to the need for rapid industrialization of research results (transfer to industry) and provide effective support to all actors involved in the development of renewable energies.

Initially, the PV-center will rely on the scientific expertise of the PV-lab and the technical know-how of several engineers with experience of the industry. The PV-lab is the photovoltaic laboratory of EPFL's Institute of Microtechnology in Neuchâtel. Its work is internationally recognized as being at the forefront of photovoltaic technology. It encompasses high-performance crystalline silicon solar cells, thin-film silicon cells and technologies to enhance the development and reliability of photovoltaic modules and systems.

The new PV-center will operate within CSEM, which is an ideal home as CSEM's activities extend beyond the remit of academic laboratories, and its growth will be ensured by the geographical proximity of several industrial operators and strong synergies with other Swiss academic research groups (such as EMPA and Swiss technical universities). The Swiss industrial sectors concerned include the machine-tools market (production and testing/quality control infrastructure), component manufacturers, and electric companies, as well as architects, integrators and installers of photovoltaic systems.

The Photovoltaic Systems Center will leverage potential synergies with other activities already underway at CSEM, such as microtechnology, nanotechnology, or electronics. Furthermore, a significant part of the center's work will consist of facilitating the technological changes demanded by a society faced with the need to harness renewable energy sources that require a systemic approach in order to be integrated into the electricity supply system.


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