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AK: It was 10 years ago that the IPO occurred in 2005.
RD: It was.
AK: And I was looking at the timeline on the website and it says here there was a pilot plant in, when was it, quite early, yeah, 2002, a pilot plant and then I look at the latest presentation and it says about the commercialisation process, “pilot plant 2017”, right, so what’s been going on?
RD: Well, thankfully it’s not the same pilot plant.
AK: No, but it has been a long time since the thing was discovered and you’re still losing money and, you know, not making any money.
RD: Well, we’re in a very, very big game and we’ve actually been quite clever in the sense that we haven’t leapt in because the technology has been advancing so rapidly in this third generation that had we committed to earlier stage commercialisation, we may have, for want of a better expression, made a rod for our back. So we’ve been learning a lot of general disciplines around the commercialisation of this technology and it’s now reached a stage where we’re actually far more committed to going from prototype to pilot line to mass production. And we now actually have some early stage projects emerging around the world because we feel that the technology is now sufficiently robust through a lot of rigorous de-risking that it’s ready for commercialisation. So we’re now much happier about presenting our timelines. We have had our head down for a few years because we’ve really transitioned from the forerunner to this technology or the precursor which was known as Dye Sensitised Solar Cells (DSC) to something known now as Perovskite Solar Cells (PSC). They’re really part of the same…
AK: Perhaps you could explain the technology both then and now in simple language.
RD: I’ll try and be simple. I’m not a scientist, although I have done some chemistry at university.
AK: All the better.
RD: I have 23 PhDs who work for me in the company, so we’re very technology rich and it’s sophisticated technology, but essentially this is a technology that has its origins in an invention by Professor Michael Graetzel at the EPFL, the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Lausanne, in 1991. And he’s won just about every international prize for that. And essentially this technology is different from silicon technology. It’s actually a technology that is based on the artificial replication of photosynthesis. And so like a leaf, a leaf is a little energy generating unit, I guess, and it’s that idea that’s been taken from nature and then made in to something sustainable and long life in the laboratory in our job. As a world leader in the commercialisation scale up of this third generation technology is to take it from the laboratory to the factory or, as they say, from lab to fab.
AK: From what I read, it turns any surface in to solar capture or solar generation, right, and presumably you coat these surfaces with the material.
RD: So it’s an ultrathin technology, so it lends itself for coating just about anything, like cement; glass is a particularly favourable or favoured substrate.
AK: Can you still see through it with glass in it?
RD: You can because it is ultrathin. We’re talking about layering a number of different compounds and sealing them on a surface as thin as three to five hundred nanometres. That’s extremely thin. It’s much thinner than a piece of human hair, for example, so anything that thin is effectively translucent. It can both capture light, but also allow light to pass through it, so it has a multifunctional purpose; a window or that is solar-enabled with Perovskite Solar Cells.
AK: So it seems to me an absolute no brainer, a really obvious thing, so everyone would go, oh, that’s fantastic, we’ll have that now instead of PV cells because PV cells are complicated, hard to make, expensive…
AK: …and so on, but if you look around you there are PV cells everywhere. Everyone has got them on their roof and they haven’t painted your material on their tiles, right, so I don’t understand that.
RD: No. Well, it’s an interesting game. We’re going through a de-risking process. One of the things that happened during the sort of turmoil in the solar industry from 2012 and ’13, oversupply…
AK: Of PV cells?
RD: Of PV when the subsidies were withdrawn from the global market, so a lot of production capacity which wasn’t being utilised because the drawdown was less and less. Of course it’s all gone through the classic PV shaped style recovery now and solar is really strong again and so that’s kind of history, but it cleaned out a lot of companies that were weak companies or companies with B grade technology.
AK: I don’t fully understand why – I’m obviously missing something – why your technology hadn’t already taken over in 2012. Why was it still PV back then?
RD: Well, the essence of the challenge in the scale up of all these technologies, and ours is no different, is getting stability and durability in the product. So all of lab efficiencies you hear about, 20 per cent, 25 per cent, all sound very exciting and the cost element has been largely dealt with. What hasn’t been absolutely established is the long life of these products and particularly if you’re going to integrate them in to building products. If you put something on a billion dollar building, the actual PV itself has to last 20 years or 30 years to justify the investment and the risk inherent in that solar enablement. So we’re going through that process of a lot of accelerated testing, simulated testing. Scale up, you know, the efficiencies you get reported are the efficiencies that occur on surfaces as small as a pinhead. We’re actually talking about taking them to metre by metre products and therefore there are some challenges in that. And a good and simple example of the challenges we face is the destruction that happens through UV. UV is very destructive. It breaks weak bonds. So you have to eliminate sort of organic content, for example. So some of the things that are achieved in the laboratory we need to substitute with more robust and better performing materials, not foregoing the initial concept or design but making them cheap and more durable. And Dyesol is the world’s expert in doing that. So we don’t really focus on efficiency. What we really focus on is something known as stability and durability and we’re ticking those boxes off and we’re reporting it quarterly. So last quarter we reported that we had done 1000 hours of light soaking stability which met the international standard – a big tick for us. No one else in the world is doing that. We’re well ahead of the game. We’ve got further milestones to accomplish, but we’re hoping to educate the world by focussing the attention on the technology, rather than business development that we know what we’re doing. Business development is easy. Forming relationships, opening doors is very easy. What’s not easy is being the master of your technology. And if you’re going to start an industry which is forecast to become multibillion, the sort of investment to support that would be billion type investment and therefore the risk management needs to be incredibly rigourous. I mean there have been some well-known casualties or skeletons produced in this market, Solyndra, Nanosolar, Q Cells, dusted a lot of investors’ money, hundreds of millions.
AK: What, doing the sorts of things you do?
RD: Yeah, without the degree of rigour or charging in without a technology that wasn’t… didn’t have the potential to…
AK: You guys have dusted a fair bit of investors’ money in the meantime, haven’t you?
RD: We have. We’ve dusted a bit, but we’re still alive and that’s what…
AK: Well, that’s the thing I guess. You can get that. You can get the money back.
RD: Staying alive and we haven’t jumped in when we considered there were still some challenges that needed to be solved. We want to come to market with something really robust with a multigenerational development plan, both in the technology… It’s a bit like phones, you know, mobile phones. The best product didn’t hit the market day one. It was a very structured rollout of multiple generations of technology, you know, reducing the cost, reducing the weight, improving the performance. That’s the way the solar industry has developed over time and we expect the development of this third generation technology will be no different.
AK: Someone splendidly named Cornubia Cassandra – I presume that’s a real name, Cornubia? Anyway, she asks a very good question which is what percentage of the energy of the sun is captured compared to existing solar panels available now?
RD: What percentage? Okay, so what you really need to understand fundamentally when understanding conversion efficiency of any PV product, it’s about talking about light falling on a square metre of panel assuming that it’s… and then understanding how much is converted in to electricity.
AK: Yes. That’s right. So that’s what we want to know.
RD: So in laboratory efficiencies for this technology are now an accredited 20.1 per cent and an unaccredited 24 per cent. That is very similar, if not the same, as what’s being achieved in the silicon industry for mono- and polycrystalline silicone. So in terms of comparability…
AK: Is that what a PV is?
RD: So at least 80 per cent of the current market is silicone technology that’s been developed since the 1950s and really rolled out in mass since about the 1980s.
AK: And they have a 20 per cent to 25 per cent efficiency?
RD: At laboratory level. The products you see typically on buildings or in paddocks in solar farm type applications, they would be producing somewhere between 12 per cent and 14 per cent.
AK: So what does that percentage refer to again? What is it? It’s a percentage…
RD: It’s the conversion efficiency of the amount of energy that’s assumed to fall on a square metre over any period of time and converted in to electricity or the flow of electrons.
RD: And scaling up from laboratory type efficiencies to industrial means of sacrificing the quality of your materials because efficiency is only one part of what we describe as the golden triangle. There are three key measures that ultimately translate in to your performance which are the efficiency, the cost and the life of the product. And we work on all three, but the real area that everyone lies awake at night about is the stability and the durability because all of these sorts of panels are the enemies of oxygen and water, so you really have to make them very secure.
AK: What do you mean they’re the enemies of oxygen and water?
RD: Electrons when they flow will form oxides, like rust, and if you don’t want the thing to rust, you’ve got to keep the oxygen and the water out and you’ve got to keep everything else inside and so the barrier technologies and the sealing technologies are really, really important. And that’s pretty much common across all solar technologies. And in this technology we’re only at the early stages of solving those problems, although we’ve made a lot of progress, so that’s the focus of our company and we believe we would be able to bring product to market by 2017, 2018 having already solved most of those problems.
AK: So the focus of your company is on stopping them rusting?
RD: Yeah, really because electrons, you know, it’s that…
AK: I didn’t know that. Really? When electrons move, it causes rust?
RD: Electrons cause things to… damages old bonds, forms new bonds. So if you’ve got something like aluminium, you introduce oxygen, you get aluminium oxide – the aluminium corrodes. The same with steel producing rust. All those sorts of things, when electrons are doing their damage, it’s really as simple as that.
AK: A question from Rod here. He says, in the next five years what will bring the most revenue, international deals or focussing on Australia?
RD: Well, Australia is early days and we’re feeling quite liberated of course with the change of leadership in the country because the last leader was hotly opposed really to renewables per se and we’ve never really bothered to delve too much in to how he formed that conclusion, but the new leadership seems to be far more supportive of the development of renewables, particularly companies like Dyesol at the very forefront of the new technologies. So there is an emerging industry here in Australia and we recently received a grant out of ARENA which is the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and that’s based on longer term talks with government and industry here in Australia which we can’t disclose at this stage because it’s really reasonably early days, but these sorts of grants we believe will form the foundation of forming a significant industry in Australia for PV manufacture which will include support, financial support from government but also industrial support, in particular to give us access to the market because building materials is somewhat of a closed shop and great technologies have failed because of their inability sometimes to get access to the market. So we recognise that. We don’t need the money of industry. We certainly don’t need the technology.
AK: I would have thought building companies would be… If you could show that your material was long-lasting and really worked, building companies would be falling over themselves to coat their windows in the stuff, really.
RD: Well, they’re beginning to, they’re beginning to, but the trouble is in Australia it’s been so uncertain the political environment and just, you know, the level of take up, the level of subsidy, how the government approaches these sorts of things, whether it’s going to be, you know, proactive or if we’re going to always be fighting the fossil fuel generators to get access to the market, all those things have been very unclear under the first two years of the current government. Now, it seems to be… the veil of secrecy and the veil of uncertainty seem to be lifted. And in the last few weeks even we have definitely progressed our discussions with Australian industry.
AK: What concrete things have changed?
RD: Well, just there’s a feeling of optimism now that if you actually invest in a new industry that you’ll get policy, regulation, government support to help the introduction of this. In the past there was a fear that these sorts of new technologies would be even opposed in defence of protecting the markets of the existing fossil fuel generators. It seems to have changed and there’s a much more…
AK: Well, on Sunday Josh Frydenberg, the Resources Minister, said there was a moral case for coal, as I recall.
RD: Yeah well, I’m not going to go in to that argument. I’m sure your listeners would understand the true moral case and it’s not a case for coal and most of the governments around…
AK: Well, you just went in to it.
RD: Well, it’s hard not to get a little irritated by those sorts of comments, but governments around the world, by and large, excluding Australia, understand the compelling argument for the viability of renewables, not just the climate change arguments, but now producing electricity from alternative, clean and green sources that can underprice traditional fossil fuel production.
AK: There’s a lot of talk about the tipping point at which point renewables, and solar in particular, become cheaper as a generator of electricity than fossil fuels, and coal in particular.
RD: I think we’ve already reached it.
AK: So have you reached that or does your technology achieve that?
RD: Absolutely. Absolutely. The only thing you have to really understand when appreciating or doing the long term sums for the viability of renewables is that they have quite a lot of capital cost upfront and a relatively small amount of capital cost over the life of the generation. A good example for that would be a solar farm. And some of the illogical and irrational arguments that have been used in the past to oppose renewables have been based on upfront, significant upfront capital costs, but if you look at the cost through something known as the levelised cost of electricity which prices the cost of the electricity over the life of the generation of the electricity, you’re now coming in at sub-10 cents per kilowatt hour for the cost of the electricity by most projects that are forecast to be unveiled in Australia over the next few years using all forms of PV. I’m not defending our technology necessarily. I’m talking about wind, I’m talking about…
AK: But is yours cheaper than photovoltaic cells?
RD: It is. We project it will be as cheap, if not cheaper, but importantly it’s more versatile and it’s particularly suited for climates like northern Europe, northeast Asia and North America where you’ve got suboptimal light conditions because of haze, pollution, the angle of incidence of the sun, those sorts of things. Australia is actually very good for silicone and, you know, we believe we can tackle silicone head on, but the low hanging fruit for a company like Dyesol is really places that I’ve just described where silicone really underperforms because it’s really sensitive to cloud cover, to the angle of the sun, all those sorts of things. Silicone works really well in the desert, equatorial desert type locations.
AK: With the sun straight overhead?
RD: At midday.
AK: At midday?
RD: At 25 degrees. Silicone actually deteriorates in performance as the temperature goes up, so it’s actually really unsuited to somewhere like Saudi Arabia because when you get like 50 degree and 60 degree midday temperatures, you’ve got a negative coefficient, heat coefficient which actually causes the performance to fall from, say, 14 to sub 10.
AK: Is that why your biggest shareholder is Saudi Arabian?
RD: Well, the Saudis are very keen to explore ways to move that way from fossil fuels generally.
AK: I should say that your biggest shareholder is, what, Tasnee?
RD: Tasnee, yes.
AK: Tasnee with 33 per cent?
RD: Yeah, indeed. No, so Tasnee is a very large petrochemical company based in Riyadh. They’re a global company. They own a very big titanium producer called Cristal and we use Cristal products in our panels. But Tasnee has major subsidiaries in the UK, in North America, in France, so it’s quite an international company, but they’re very interested in exploring ways to develop renewable technologies, not only for the Middle East but globally. You know, they’re very… they’re quite visionary.
AK: Wes wants to know, who are you racing against developing similar technologies?
RD: A very good question, Wes. We really are at the forefront. The emerging competitor is Oxford Photovoltaics, a spinout from Oxford University, so it does certainly give our technology a great deal of credibility to have such a well-regarded opponent or competitor, but we’ve been at this quite a lot longer and spent quite a lot more money than Oxford. And of course we recognise that there’s room for more than one company in the space, but between Oxford and Dyesol I believe we’ve got most of the technical challenges covered. Importantly we’ve done an IP search which demonstrates that Dyesol has priority over Oxford in just about every relevant part of the technology, so we’re feeling pretty confident.
AK: Ash says, what is the life of the product compared to solar panels currently on the market? Now, I think you’ve answered this, but perhaps you could be clear about it.
RD: I have. I have and that’s the multibillion dollar question We do a lot of testing and the key international standard is called IEC 6146 and requires you to do 1000 hours of continual light soaking, 1000 hours of performance with less than 10 per cent degradation at 85 degrees C and 85 per cent humidity. All these sorts of standards, we’re well on the way and we’ve already published some results already to satisfying. And when we’ve got a panel the size of your desk there, Alan, able to perform at that standard, we’ll take it to the NREL in Newport in the USA and get it accredited by the world’s best testing laboratory and I think we’ll tick the box then to really scale up to much larger volumes of production.
AK: And when will that happen?
RD: We’re aiming to do that by 2017, 2018.
AK: And an anonymous guest says, when that happens in 2017 where will you be selling in to?
RD: Well, we have two or three projects around the world. They’re emerging. So we have one in Turkey. We have an emerging one in Australia which will become better known we hope over the next few months. And we have the potential also to roll one out in Korea. So we’re sort of diversifying away from any one major industrial partner. We don’t want that risk. We’ve had it before and it’s failed us, so we’re a bit cleverer these days. Also, we want to address different opportunities in different geographies. So we’ll have two or three at the minimum to our projects and I think, you know, the ability for that to mushroom over time as it gets further de-risked and the industry becomes more comfortable with the risk and the long term viability of the technology, then we can address many opportunities. We don’t really seek to get in to China at the moment. We’re always quite cautious about our intellectual property protection in places like China, but China ultimately would be an excellent destination for our technology as well.
AK: You don’t need to be there for them to pinch your technology.
AK: I mean let’s face it.
RD: Exactly. You know, I always close down my computer at night and unplug it from the wall.
AK: Do you?
RD: I do.
AK: Right. Interesting.
RD: Best firewall you can have.
AK: Is, what, to unplug it?
RD: Unplug it.
AK: True. Joseph says – this sort of takes you back towards the beginning, how do the electrons flow from a thin coating without conducting filaments generating the power to an electric wire?
RD: Well, that’s a fairly heavy technical question, but in our modules we have very faint, ultrathin copper and silver conductor busbars that are not visible necessarily to the human eye that capture the electrons and export them outside of the grid.
AK: So you have wires connected to the cell. You just can’t see them.
RD: There are wires. They’re just not visible. You know, everything we do is ultrathin and it minimises cost and improves performance.
AK: Yeah. And so when do you expect to see revenue?
RD: Revenue? Well, I think… hopefully when we start producing the in the 2017, ’18 period that will attract significant revenue. We have, for example, a business plan to roll this out in Turkey, scaling up to 600 megawatts over a five year to 10 year period where that forecasts a generation of hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, so it’s very exciting that particular project. Turkey has very...
AK: Is this your project? This is not your project?
RD: It is. It’s a joint venture project that’s emerging with a group called Nesli DSC and we’ve already got a letter of intent from the Turkish Development Bank.
AK: Does joint venture mean that you supply the things for nothing and get a share of the equity?
RD: It doesn’t. It means we’re a 50:50 equity partner in a project financed… a separate entity in Turkey where the project finance has already been in principle volunteered by the Turkish Development Bank up to $200 million. So Dyesol… shareholders would be heavily protected from any capital call in the context of being able to fund at the project level from external sources, basically cheap debt.
RD: And it’s so strategically important. If you’re following what’s going on in Turkey at the moment – there are many things of course going on in Turkey, not all good – but they have enormous reliance on Russian imported oil and gas and they’re not too friendly with the Russians, particularly when they’re flying over their territory. It’s about a $40 billion cheque that they send to Russia every year, so they’re really keen to develop internal capacity because they don’t have their own resources and the advent of renewables is very exciting.
AK: So within that project does that mean your revenue comes from the electricity rather than selling the material?
RD: Well, we haven’t really… we’ll sell panels in to projects, so I think we’ll draw the line, so we would sell at the factory gate a panel in to new solar projects. So we’re very happy because of the forecast low levelised cost of energy to look at utility type opportunities in Turkey because they have some quite lofty renewable targets and very little capacity to satisfy them without the introduction of some new technology. They do have a little bit of hydro, but it’s not…
AK: So but you’ll presumably be making your money…
RD: By selling panels.
AK: …by selling panels.
RD: Yeah. Yeah.
AK: Yeah. And how much will you sell them for?
RD: Well, you sell a 120 watt panel these days, if you want to compete with silicone, at around $50 or $60 per square metre.
AK: Right. And that’s the market you’ll be in, roughly that?
RD: Yeah. It’s the early entry market. Ultimately we seek to get in to things like building integrated photovoltaics which is considered to be the Holy Grail. The ability to coat the material of a building with a solar-enabled technology is really the Holy Grail. But the early entry, low risk, low product liability market…
AK: Is selling panels.
RD: …is selling panels in to utilities.
AK: But when do you think you’ll… I mean the Holy Grail thing?
RD: Our technology roadmap goes out to 2025 and certainly by 2020 we expect to be in building integrated photovoltaics and that’s the Holy Grail because it eliminates things like installation costs, transmission costs, gives you energy security. You’re actually consuming at the point of generation. You can all sign off from the grid and walk away from your dependency on state provided infrastructure and be self-sufficient.
AK: If a skyscraper that we can see out the window here was coated in your material on all the glass, would it be self-sufficient?
RD: It could well be self-sufficient. The technology is sufficiently high-performing now for that to be self-sufficient. And certainly with the advent of the batteries that are coming through companies now like Tesla that are really not pioneering battery research but actually making it more accessible – a lot of this technology has been around for a while, but it’s now being made cheaper by virtue of its mass production – that visionaries like…
AK: Because batteries are very important to the future of solar, right?
RD: Yeah because the sun doesn’t shine at night.
AK: No, that’s right. And I suppose to some extent the evolution of battery technology is revolutionising the solar universe as well?
RD: Totally. Totally. You know, Elon Musk gets this. And, you know,that we really need to see in countries like Australia is the opportunity not only in exporting our technology but generating jobs and revenue and taxes by responding to the challenge of this new opportunity, rather than trying to pretend it doesn’t exist and sweeping it under the carpet and protecting fossils of industries, excuse the pun.
AK: Well, what a good note to end on. We’ve run out of time. Thanks very much, Richard.
RD: Alan, it’s an absolute pleasure, thank you very much.
AK: And thank you.
- See more at: http://www.dyesol.com/posts/Interview_with_Alan_Kohler/#stha…
|aus der Diskussion:||Greatcell Solar Ltd. (GSL) --- ehemalige Dyesol Ltd -- Solarwert an der Australischen Börse|
|Autor (Datum des Eintrages):||Investor259 (28.10.15 10:06:27)|
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