Every day, the sun radiates down onto the earth a thousand times more energy than we could ever use. The demand for technologies capable of tapping into that energy is booming as pressure mounts to find solutions to climate change and sustainable development. Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems - which convert light energy from the sun directly into electricity - produce no greenhouse gases in their operation, have no moving parts, require virtually no maintenance, and have cells that last for decades.
PV systems are not new. A nineteen-year-old French physicist, Edmond Becquerel, is credited with having first described the photovoltaic effect in 1839. But it was not until the 1950s, when American researchers at the Bell Telephone Laboratories developed silicium solar cells, that the modern technological era of PV began - and even then only haltingly. U.S. government support for PV technology was initially tied to the space program, where it was used in 1958 to power the Vanguard satellite. Terrestrial commercialization was subsequently spurred by the 1970s oil crisis, and in the 1980s small markets began to appear, specializing primarily in stand-alone systems for rural areas.
The turning point for the industry was the development in the 1990s of the market for grid-connected PV systems. Figures published by the Earth Policy Institute indicate that, since 2002, global PV production has been increasing by an average of 48 percent a year, making it the world's fastest-growing energy technology. The growth has created a flourishing industry which offers a wide range of applications, while investing major resources in R&D with the primary aims of reducing cost and increasing efficiency.
One of the world's leading companies in PV and thermal solar energy technologies is Isofoton in Spain. The company was created in 1981, initially as a spin-off to develop and produce two patented bi- facial solar cells invented by Professor Antonio Luque at the Polytechnic University of Madrid. Today, Isofoton manufactures modules, cells, trackers, inverters, regulators, lighting, batteries and pumping systems and develops new products and processes for attracting, transforming, storing and using the sun's power. It has a commercial presence in over 60 countries, with subsidiary offices in China, Ecuador, U.S., Italy, Morocco, the Dominican Republic, Algeria, Bolivia and Senegal.
As an innovation-driven company, intellectual property (IP) is central to Isofoton's business and R&D strategies. Jesús Alonso , Isofoton's R&D...