CSEM's Photovoltaic Systems Center begins operations

February 18, 2013 // By Paul Buckley
The new Photovoltaic Systems Center in Neuchâtel has become operational as a new division of CSEM. The center is dedicated to applied research and technology transfer in the domain of solar energy.

The center has received CHF19 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 January 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 pressure on the solar sector worldwide (mass production, considerable invest-ment 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 technolo-gy 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 sys-tems.

The new PV-center will operate within CSEM, which is an ideal home as