Billionaire green hydrogen tycoon focuses on low-cost perovskite solar power with plant cash injection

Fortescue Future Industries (FFI), the green hydrogen developer owned by Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest, has invested more capital in low-cost solar panel maker HyET to fund an increase in its production capacity – with an eye on FFI’s ambitions to develop a 1 GW PV plant 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 additional cash would also support the rollout of its business around the world.

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

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

For FFI, however, the value of Powerfoil lies in the cost savings the technology could achieve in producing the 15 million tonnes per year of green hydrogen that FFI is aiming for by 2030.

Cost reduction claims

According to HyET, utility-scale solar power using Powerfoil technology could reduce the levelized 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 represented by electricity costs, FFI is certainly looking to reduce the costs of its hydrogen projects.

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

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

However, claims on the HyET website that Powerfoil reduces LCOE by 30% compared to conventional c-Si panels cannot be verified. According to HyET’s own calculations, the LCOE of Powerfoil is reduced by 43% compared to c-Si in residential applications and 10% in commercial applications, resulting in an average energy reduction of 20.2%. residential, commercial and utility solar. Recharge asked for clarification.

Teslin, meanwhile, says it will actively support HyET’s ambition to go public in Amsterdam in the next few years, to help the company access green finance.

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

The mineral perovskite, composed of calcium titanate (CaTiO3), was discovered in the Urals roller coaster in 1839 by German mineralogist Gustav Rose, who named it after a Russian colleague and future minister of interior, Count Lev Perovski.

It lends its name to a group of compounds that share the same cubic atomic structure, whether man-made or natural.

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

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