Blue Square Energy hypes impurity enriched silicon solar cells

“Affordable, high-performance” silicon solar cells achieve “over” 12% efficiency

Beyond the quote in the previous post, Blue Square Energy launches website, there is not much more information on the Blue Square Energy (BSE) website regarding Bright Point silicon solar cells or impurity enriched silicon. The solar cell and module product pictures may or may not be representative of BSE products, and the copy on the website reads like classic marketing hype:

Blue Square Energy’s silicon solar cells are currently available in two sizes: 200mm and 300mm. Our 300mm solar cell is the largest and most powerful silicon cell available in the market today and is found in many household tools and appliances.

I am very curious to see those “household tools and applianceswith 300mm (approximately 12 inch) solar cells! Perhaps this is a forward looking statement?

On the Cells and Modules product page, a round looking solar cell photo accompanies a square solar cell module (see photo above left). Although BSE’s 200mm and 300mm solar cell sizes match mainstream, round semiconductor wafers, BSE must realize round solar cells are passé and don’t match the fine Blue Square name? BSE makes a point of attacking existing photovoltaic technologies:

Moreover, current solar technologies — conventional silicon, thin film, amorphous — are too expensive and do not generate enough power to meet market demands.

On the History and Milestones page, BSE makes the following claims:

  • November 7, 2006: Completion of DARPA Phase I Milestones.
  • March 20, 2006: Commercial Bright Point Solar Cells Achieves 12 percent efficiency.
  • May 27, 2005: BSE ships first 300mm solar cell.
  • April 10, 2005: BSE receives $13 million purchase order for silicon solar cells.
  • October 1, 2004: BSE signs lease on a 24,000 square foot production facility to manufacture solar cells from recycled silicon wafers.

The lack of detail on the BSE website raises a number of questions about Bright Point solar cells and impurity enriched silicon.

  • What is the physical geometry and thickness of the silicon solar cells?
  • Does BSE reprocess the scrap silicon semiconductor wafers in their original form?
  • Does BSE source or have plans to source some form of Solar Grade Silicon in addition to scrap wafers or is BSE’s ability to scale production limited by scrap wafer availability?
  • What specific DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Phase I Milestones did BSE complete for the Very High Efficiency Solar Cell (VHESC) program? I have sent a request to DARPA for this detail.

While BSE claims to have “patented a clean solution”, with all these open questions, it is unclear if BSE is going back to the future with AstroPower style single crystal or Silicon Film based solar cell technologies or has BSE developed new manufacturing techniques to cast wafers or grow silicon ribbons. I would expect GE Solar Technologies, a General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) business, to be vigorous in defending the Intellectual Property obtained during their acquisition of AstroPower, Inc. from US Bankruptcy Court.

Blue Square Energy now profiles the management team. For the original post on BSE, Blue Square Energy: Mystery Solar Start-up founded by AstroPower Alumni, the company and their PR Agency, Braithwaite Communications, were unwilling to provide President and CEO Jeff Barnett’s bio. Here is Mr. Barnett’s profile from the BSE website:

Jeffrey Barnett (President & CEO, Board of Directors) founded Blue Square Energy in April 2004 and serves as its president and Chief Executive Officer. He is responsible for setting the company’s priorities and overseeing the research, development and manufacturing teams. He also directs every aspect of the company’s fundraising and marketing activities. Prior to starting BSE, Mr. Barnett founded Market Path Associates, a strategy consultancy for emerging energy companies. He has previously held positions with AstroPower and Intel Corporation.

Mr. Barnett holds a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering, with a semiconductor physics concentration, from Cornell University. He is president of the Associate Board for the St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children and is active with the Cornell University Alumni Engineering Association, the American Cancer Society and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He has competed in the 2001 and 2002 New York City Marathons and numerous triathlons.

Besides Jeff Barnett as President, CEO, and the “Board of Directors”, the BSE team includes AstroPower alumni David Ford, Director, Research & Development, Jerry Culik, Direct
or, Advanced Engineering, and Kevin Allison, Director, Business Development. John Pittman, Vice President, Manufacturing Operations, joined BSE in October 2006 from a similar role at
Agere Systems, Inc. (NYSE:AGR). BSE has chosen not to disclose any board member besides Jeff Barnett.

Blue Square Energy has yet to disclose information regarding their existing investors, although BSE is open to new investors. Without disclosure and uncooperative with the press, I am left with speculation. Could Dr. Allen Barnett, Jeff Barnett’s father, be one of the secret investors in Blue Square Energy?

GP Note: There are numerous typos on the Blue Square Energy website. I corrected a few in the quotes to improve readability.


  1. Anonymous says:

    The Energy Revolution
    I find that many people are missing the point and are not aware of the pending energy/oil shortage.
    The world population is increasing; many countries are advancing to the current technology.
    Fossil fuel/energy is being depleted faster than it’s been regenerated.
    It is time for the energy revolution.
    That means other sources of energy such as: Solar/Photovoltaic, Wind, Geothermal, Hydrogen, Wave/Tidal, Nuclear/Fusion and numerous other sources, not to mention efficiency and conservation. (The use of lake/Ocean water for cooling).
    It is time to set the mindset of the people, industry and the government on a crusade to develop and utilize alternative energy on a massive scale.
    It will take many decades to reach those goals. But we need a total commitment of funds, research and implementation to reach those goals or we are doomed.
    The United States the most economically advanced country in the world must become energy independent, for our sake, our children’s sake and future generations.
    It is time to unite in this endeavor of alternative energy, energy efficiency and proceed without the political confrontation. (Europe is advancing faster than the USA)
    Jay Draiman
    Northridge, CA. 91325

  2. Edgar A. Gunther says:

    I decided to moderate a second comment by Mr. Draiman because it was not germaine to this post. This is the first time I used comment moderation to not publish a reader’s comments. I believe the comment is equivalent to energy policy spam.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, that’s a funny quote about thier 300mm wafers found in all kinds of tools and appliances. What kind of appliances/tools have such low power requirements? Electronic gadgets, yes, but appliances and tools?

    The “impurities” marketing spin is an obvious tale-tell sign that this is a rehashing of the silicon film days, not to mention that their images of the “blue square” cell is indeed a silicon film wafer (as anyone who’s seen them will testify). It’s actually a very appropriate technology where there’s an abundance of dirty cheap silicon. Silicon film was getting 12% efficiency back then and apparently that’s still what they’re still getting.

    But it’s dirt cheap silicon so if they can cast it and assemble them cheaply enough then maybe they can get under the $3.00/watt range. If they can’t do that then they have no long term future.

    However, it seems anyway that this repacked silicon-film, along with the single crystal efforts, is a side show. The Darpa initiative intends to produce 55% efficient solar cells, and that isn’t going to happen with silicon film or with standard single crystal technologies.

    I know these guys very well (and yes, that whole management team was transplanted directly from Astropower when it went belly up). I wish them luck, though I really have to wonder whether it’s business as usuall over there.


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