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updated 10:55 PM BST, Apr 23, 2015
Technology and life sciences news from the Cambridge cluster

Polysolar chasing €6m to manufacture transparent photovoltaics in the UK

Polysolar's tinted glass used on a greenhousePolysolar says it plans to build a full scale production plant for its transparent photovoltaic glazing in the UK within the next two years.

The company specialises in building integrated PV (BIPV) and is looking for up to €6m to reach its goal. €4m is expected to come from the the EU, which then needs to be 'match-funded' with another €2m from elsewhere.

Polysolar CEO, Hamish Watson, says the company plans to source the balance from its two partners, Solvay and Pilkington, as well as outside investors. He is keen to avoid VC funding and believes to be asking too much for angels to step in, so will seek cash from the City of London and its institutional investors.

The company already produces tinted PV glazing for roofing, facades and cladding and is in negotiations about work at the 2012 Olympic Games and 2022 World Cup.

Now the development work on a fully transparent PV glazing that can be used for large scale buildings is intensifying and Polysolar has opened an R&D office at Petec (Printable Electronics Technology Centre) in Sedgefield, County Durham.

R&D has been underway at Petec since Polysoloar transferred work in the summer from Sheffield. Watson says the company was originally going to open R&D in Cambridge but due to a lack of funding had to outsource, which he says has worked well.

He says Polysolar also once tried to set up a small plant in Cambridge but again couldn't raise the funding and now works with a Taiwanese OEM to produce its tinted PV glazing.

The full sclae production plant will come to the UK though, in major part because of the importance of the market. Watson calls the UK the world leading market for building architecture, design and specification and the core market for its BIPV.

"The glass business is very market specific," says Watson. "Glazing specifications are different for every market and every building and even within the building. Hence for PV glass we are looking at batch processing, rather than mass production allowing us to manufacture products to local requirements."

Watson says that in cloudy UK conditions, the thin film technology delivers a 25 per cent higher energy yield than conventional crystalline PV and is half the price per square metre adding that the nature of the Polysolar technology production process also means it can produce cost competitively with conventional PV.

The plan is to collaborate with existing glass processing companies to install the Polysolar PV line in existing plants as much of the cost is in handling and cleaning equipment, which is already installed and the supply chain is also in place.

"The production process is largely automated hence labour costs are not a big issue while transportation of glass is expensive," says Watson.

The plan is to then roll the model out beyond the UK: "We anticipate production joint ventures with glass processors in all the major world markets.

Polysolar's underlying technology originated in Cambridge at the Cavendish Laboratory. The company was founded in 2007 and is part funded by a £1m TSB grant.

Watson will continue to run the company from Cambridge for the time being where it is generating revenues from existing glazing products. Though he says there is pressure from the government's recent decision to cut subsidies for feed-in tarrifs (FITs).

However, Watson says this is just a short term problem and should not have any impact longer term.