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Micron Technology, Origin Energy form solar PV joint venture

18 January 2010 | By Tom Cheyney | News > Wafer Processing

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In a cross-industry collaboration between major players in their respective sectors, Australian conglomerate Origin Energy and U.S. semiconductor manufacturer Micron Technology have formed a 50:50 joint venture focused on photovoltaic technology development. The companies offered few details about the venture, including its name, facility locations, financial arrangements, or technology paths.

“As we have looked to leverage our core strengths in other markets, photovoltaic energy technology is a natural area of investigation,” said Mark Durcan, Micron’s president/COO, in a statement. “Origin is a company with a significant interest and history in renewable energy technologies. Combining our semiconductor manufacturing expertise with Origin’s solar experience could result in a strong partnership.”

Andrew Stock, Origin’s executive GM for major development projects, stated, “We are pleased to joint venture with Micron as a global semiconductor leader to further explore the potential of solar photovoltaic technology. The near-term objective of the joint venture is to combine the work Origin has done to date in solar development with Micron’s capabilities, and to examine opportunities for commercialization.”

Micron spokesman Dan Francisco confirmed the report but told PV Tech (sister publication to Fabtech) that “we don’t have much detail to provide beyond what is in the press release that Origin issued.”

“While the venture is in the early stages of exploration, it is clear there is value in combining the knowledge and capabilities of the two companies in this effort to further develop new and innovative solar photovoltaic technologies,” he added. “Beyond that, because the venture is in the early stages of exploration, it’s too early to attempt to discuss specific details.”

Origin has been working on the “Sliver” monocrystalline-silicon PV technology (see below photo), developed at Australian National University’s Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems, at its dedicated research and pilot manufacturing facility in Adelaide’s Regency Park for several years.

Micron has shown an interest in getting into the solar PV sector for awhile, telling PV Tech in March 2009 that it was "uniquely positioned to use the company's semiconductor manufacturing expertise to dramatically lower costs for these manufacturing technologies.” The company already holds certain patents in the field.

The Idaho Statesman reports that the agreement between the two companies was signed in December, according to an internal Micron memo it obtained. The news story also says that a source told the paper that Origin has been “testing the manufacturing” of its cells this month at Micron’s Boise facilities.

Coverage of the deal in the Sydney Morning Herald quotes an Origin spokesman as saying that the joint venture’s board will have its “first meeting in the next few months,” and that the JV “will be in a position to assess opportunities in the future.”

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