Billionaire green hydrogen magnate hones in on low-cost perovskite solar with factory cash injection

Fortescue Future Industries (FFI), the green hydrogen developer owned by Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest, has poured more capital into a low-cost solar panel manufacturer HyET to fund a scale-up of its production capacity — with an eye on FFI’s ambitions to develop a 1GW PV factory using the latter’s technology in Australia.

Netherlands-based HyET, which is targeting 40MW of solar module production per year at its Dutch factory, said the extra cash would also support a roll-out of its business worldwide.

FFI was joined by Dutch investment fund Teslin Participations in the investment, the value of which remains undisclosed. Both companies have taken equity stakes, Teslin for the first time and FFI building on the 60% stake it acquired in October 2021.

HyET’s solar technology utilises a combination of thin-film amorphous silicon and perovskites (see panel below) to produce an ultra-lightweight panel the company is marketing under the name Powerfoil. The product is 95% lighter than conventional crystalline silicone-based (c-Si) glass panels, the company claims, and its flexibility means it can be rolled out like a carpet to maximise surface area. This lends it to load-sensitive rooftop applications – indeed has thus far been ships on the roofs of cruise, fuel stations and oil storage tanks.

For FFI, though, the value of Powerfoil is in the cost savings that the technology might achieve for the production of the 15 million tons per annum of green hydrogen FFI is targeting by 2030.

cost reduction claims

According to HyET, utility-scale solar using Powerfoil technology could reduce the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) of solar power by 7.6%, to around $23.5/MWh.

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With 60-70% of the LCOE of green hydrogen accounted for by electricity costs, FFI is certainly looking to shave off costs in its hydrogen projects.

“We are working with HyET Solar to ensure we have the best and most efficient solar technology at our fingertips to generate the level of green hydrogen the world needs,” Julie Shuttleworth, CEO of FFI, said in the wake of the company’s second investment in HyET.

To this end, the company is developing its own 1GW Powerfoil factory in Australia, which is currently in the design phase.

Claims on HyET’s website that Powerfoil is reduces the LCOE by 30% against conventional c-Si panels cannot be verified, however. According to HyET’s own calculations, Powerfoil’s LCOE is reduced by 43% against c-Si in residential applications and 10% in commercial, giving an average of 20.2% reduction across residential, commercial and utility-scale solar. Recharge has sought clarification.

Teslin, meanwhile, says it will actively support HyET’s ambition to float on the Amsterdam stock exchange within the next few years, in order to help the company access green finance.

  • FFI is due to take a final investment decision on its first green hydrogen project next year, the CEO of parent company Fortescue Metals Group, Elizabeth Gaines, said this week. The Gibson Island project in Queensland would produce 50,000 tons of green hydrogen a year for ammonia production.

The mineral perovskite, composed of calcium titanate (CaTiO3), was discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains in 1839 by German mineralogist Gustav Rose, who named it after a Russian colleague and soon-to-be minister of the interior, Count Lev Perovski.

Its its name to a group of compounds that share the same cubic atomic structure, whether artificial or naturally occurring.

Perovskites used for solar cells — such as methylammonium lead trihalide and formamidinum lead trihalide — can be created cheaply in laboratories without the need for the expensive crystallisation or vapor-deposition methods used in silicon and traditional thin-film panels.

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