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Solar cell company gets $4M federal award to scale up

A local company that has been developing a solar panel that can produce more energy and be made more quickly has earned a $4 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy to scale up its technology and process.

Energy Materials Corp., a resident company in the Eastman Business Park, announced the award earlier this month. The company makes high-efficiency solar panels that use both sides to collect solar energy–direct sunlight on the topside and reflected light on the bottom. EMC also uses a roll-to-roll printing process that speeds up production.

“This is a scale-up process,” EMC President Stephan DeLuca said of the award. “We’re taking devices that have been made in the lab and scaling up for production.”

The award from the DOE’s Solar Energy Technology Office would cover three years of research and development work, DeLuca said. The project would result in about 10 additional employees; some would be at EMC’s offices in Rochester and others would be EMC employees working at DOE’s National Renewable Energy Labs in Golden, Colo.  The company also expects to double its lab space at Eastman Business Park, DeLuca said.

Though many of the specifics and timelines are still to be determined or can’t be shared right now, DeLuca said EMC eventually expects to produce 3 to 4 gigawatts of solar panels a year, representing three or four times the production promised by Tesla’s so-called gigafactory in Buffalo.

An advisor to the project, Dave Buemi, who holds the title of chief development officer for ECM but isn’t employed by the company yet, said, “For Rochester and the region, this is a completely new way to do solar module manufacturing that has significant advantages and can lead to large-scale employment. It’s a really nice turn of events for the solar industry and for the Rochester region.”

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