The Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has recently
formed alliances with five U.S. companies to find faster, cheaper ways of manufacturing photovoltaic
devices: Astropower, Inc. (Newark, DE), Texas Instruments (Dallas, TX), Solarex Corp. (Rockville,
MD), Solar Cells, Inc. (Toledo, OH) and Golden Photon (Golden, CO).
Texas Instruments is trying to improve its "spheral" cells which consist of thousands
of tiny silicon balls bonded to a thin, flexible sheet of aluminum. This application would save on costs
by allowing photovoltaic cells to utilize less expensive, metallurgical-grade silicon. Likewise, Astropower,
Inc. also attempting to use a low-cost substrate, upon which layers of silicon would be deposited.
NREL also reports that its partnership with United Solar Systems Corp. "reached its
zenith recently when the company announced plans to build one of the world's largest photovoltaic production