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  • Writer's pictureThe Solar Journey

Episode #013 - Dr. Pierre Verlinden

Updated: Apr 28, 2022

Episode #013 with Torsten Brammer & Pierre Verlinden:

In episode #013 Dr. Torsten Brammer speaks with Dr. Pierre Verlinden. Dr. Verlinden is a photovoltaic (PV) scientist with 40 years of experience in high-efficiency silicon solar cell technology, IBC silicon cells, Concentrator photovoltaic (CPV), multi-junction III-V solar cells, detectors, optoelectronic and power devices.

The founder and managing director of Amrock, he specializes in design, process development and integration, modeling and characterization. His experience also includes the transfer of PV technology from University to Manufacturing, and the design and construction of PV manufacturing plants.

Dr. Brammer and Dr. Verlinden discuss the key milestones in PV-tech, sustainability in PV, recruitment, and what it takes to get solar to the next level. Tune in to hear all about what Dr. Verlinden is doing in the solar industry and more.

Connect with Dr. Pierre Verlinden on LinkedIn.

Show Notes:

Key milestones in PV-Tech: - Passivation, way above all - Screen printing - Surface passivation

What is sustainability in PV? - Finance expansion from cash flow, vs loan - Energy pay back allows doubling every year - Material consumption is not limiting

How to recruit: - Know-how, device physics - How he addresses issues - Can he/she cook?

What does it take for next level: - High speed of integration, build grid, grow storage


[00:00:00.130] - Pierre


[00:00:03.570] - Torsten

So welcome everybody to another episode of The Solar Journey. And today our guest is Pierre Salinden. He's the terabyte man in the solar industry. Welcome.

[00:00:19.050] - Pierre

Hello, Torsten. How are you?

[00:00:21.850] - Torsten

Good. Thanks for coming on the show.

[00:00:25.110] - Pierre

Thank you for inviting me.

[00:00:26.680] - Torsten

Yeah. So we just met in person week before last week Silicon PV conference in Germany in Constance, Southern Germany. And many people were happy to meet finally again face to face. And we also had the chance to see each other face to face along with many, many other people who I missed to see. I guess it was similar for you.

[00:00:57.850] - Pierre

Yeah. It was great to meet again at the conference and see people that you haven't seen for two or three years, right?

[00:01:05.360] - Torsten

Yeah. So before we get started, I try at least to mention the most important highlights because Pierre has been in the industry for such a long time, 40 years at least. And he has been there when solar was negligible source of energy. And he contributed with lots of technological advancements with 200 technical papers, many patents to where solar technology is today. So today Pierre Verlinden is a managing director of Amrock. That's a PV technology consulting company. It's a one-man show. You talk about it sooner what you do. So you have assignments with various industrial players in the industry. You at the same time are a professor at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, and at the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China. And that already outlines that you are playing on all continents on the relevant TV continents. Now you still are part-time chief scientist and vice President and Trina Solar, one of the top ten solar cell producers. You will add also as a full time not vice President.

[00:02:34.770] - Pierre

I'm part-time chief scientist.

[00:02:37.610] - Torsten

Chief scientist.

[00:02:38.250] - Pierre


[00:02:38.730] - Torsten

Okay. Vice President of the state key laboratory of PV science and technology. You were also chief scientists in various other PV companies in the US and Australia. And that includes SunPower. Actually, you were one of the among the first six I think, original employees, SunPower, all technology people in PV know what SunPower is. That's a US American company that used to have the most efficient solar cell with a back contact solar cell. Very famous back then with Dick Swanson. You are on the board of Oxford PV, a Perezcott tandem cell manufacturer. And you're also on the board as independent director at BT Imaging, a metrology company from Australia. Your work was awarded with basically the most famous, most important awards you can get on this planet. It is like that. So you got the William Cherry Award from the IEEE association in the US. That's the highest award I would say for PV scientists that this organization can hand out. And you also got the equivalent prize from the European Union, the Becquerel prize. And you also got the Friendship award by the Chinese government. And that's the award for the highest award given to a foreigner by China, also for your achievements in PV technology.

[00:04:50.730] - Pierre

Thank you very much Torsten I feel very proud of what I've done, but also very humble because I know a lot of people who deserve those prizes as much as I do or probably even more than I do. And I feel very humble about that. It's very difficult because those prices get there's one chance every year, and there are so many people who deserve it. So I feel very humble about it. And I'm grateful for all the people who worked with me, very smart people, and I had a chance to work with wonderful leaders like Dick Swanson and other ones. I really feel very grateful about that.

[00:05:40.350] - Torsten

Yeah. That just speaks for you, that you consider this aspect, but you don't get it by chance when they're doing great work. Excellent. So 40 years in PV, a long time ago, you got started in PV. Why did you move in the solar space in the first place?

[00:06:05.670] - Pierre

Well, I made my first solar sales 1970. Yeah, it was something like 16%. It was probably a very expensive solar cells made by hand in University lab with iron implanters and things like that, and photo autography and on two inch wafers. Why did I start in PV? I think it comes from a very long time. When I was kids, I was always dreaming to produce electricity on my own with different systems. And I was building little generators or I was trying to imagine a roof with thermocouples thousands of thermocouples to produce electricity. And efficiency would have been probably half a percent or something like that. But at that time, I had no idea what efficiency would be. And one day I read an article about solar cell, and I thought, that is so cool. Oh, so cool. And I said, that's what I want to do. I think I was 16 or 17 or something like that. And so I start studying engineering, and I went immediately into electrical engineering. And when I had to decide about my master's degree thesis, I decided to make solar cells. And that's how I made my first sources in last year of engineering.

[00:07:59.630] - Torsten

Where was that?

[00:08:01.370] - Pierre

At the University of Louvain, Belgium, Catholic University of Louvain. And I was in the microelectronic laboratory. I was practically the only one interested in making solar cells. There were three other guys who were students from Algeria, and they were interested in make solar cells. So we were four of us. And very quickly my colleagues from Algeria left and returned to their country. And I was the only one practically in Microelectronics doing solar cells. And everybody looked at me and saying, I should starting to do something serious and making integrate circuits and work on CMOS instead of stupid solar cells that will not go anywhere.

[00:08:52.650] - Torsten

Wow. So great vision already back then. Phenomenal. Is it correct to say that you're the kind of the ideal kind of founder of the today PV laboratory with an Imac.

[00:09:12.570] - Pierre

No Imac. It's linked to the Flamish part of the Catholic University of Louvain. I was in the French side, okay. So I was not involved with Imac, so I worked in a couple of years as a consultant, but I've never been part of I make as an employee or founder or anything like that. Interestingly. I was very interested in high efficiency. So I was developing high-efficiency monocrystalline solar cells, and the application was concentrated. So concentrating PV, whereas Imac had following Roger van Overstrat and was the founder of Imac, a great man who pushed PV, was a big fanatic for photovoltaics in Europe.

[00:10:15.640] - Torsten


[00:10:16.190] - Pierre

He was actually the first recipient of the bankrupt price. I don't know if you remember. So Roger Vanover Stratton had taken the road of multicrystalline low cost or cells with screen printed process. And I decided that that was not the way to go. I decided that the way to go was using monocrystalline and targeting high efficiency, because my vision was that you develop high-efficiency sales first, and then you find a way to reduce the cost. If you go the other way, you target low cost first and try to raise the efficiency. Basically, you close the roads towards high efficiency, you find a way that you end up in a cul-de-sac. You cannot increase the efficiency anymore. That's what I decided to do the other way around. And it was kind of unique in Europe because in Europe there was no research money for high-efficiency source cells, okay? There was research money for tin films and low-cost manufacturing, but not for high efficiency, definitely not for concentrators. And that's how I end up meeting Dick Swanson in US and decide to work with Dick on high-efficiency solar cells. I was already working on IBC cells in 1978 because I found an article from Lambert and Schwartz about IBC that they wrote in Electron Device Transaction on Electron Device.

[00:12:02.710] - Pierre

And I thought that was a very cool device, and I decided to work on that. That's how I met Dix Ransom. So we were discussing about IBC Sale, another conference in the IEEE PVC conference, and we work together after that.

[00:12:20.770] - Torsten

So that's when he hired you for SunPower?

[00:12:24.130] - Pierre

Well, I first went to Stanford University on a postdoc. Okay. So I got a grant from NATO, actually, not the military side, but the scientific side. So I got a NATO research fellowship to go to Stanford as a visiting scholar. And I worked at Stanford for one year with Dick Swanson and Ron Simton and Dave Kane, et cetera. And after that year at Stanford, I returned to Louvain, where I became an assistant professor. But two years later, three years later, Dick Swanson called me and says, I'm starting SunPower. Do you want to come back? Yeah. So I was at Stanford. I already had the company under the name of EOS. The SunPower was called EOS and was actually founded in 1985. But it was a paper company for about five years. And when I left Stanford, talking with Dick, he knew already that I was interested to come back in case he really started the company and he needed some people. So when he got some VC funding, he called me back in and he said, Pierre, do you want to come back to California? I say yes.

[00:14:10.150] - Torsten


[00:14:11.230] - Pierre

That was a great decision. I do not regret that. That was wonderful.

[00:14:16.180] - Torsten

Yeah. So what's the efficiency at this level? You started at 16%. That's your first solar cell.

[00:14:26.270] - Pierre

Yeah. Then raised to about 2021 already.

[00:14:31.350] - Torsten


[00:14:33.570] - Pierre

Although I'm not totally sure about the measurements at that moment. It was not very precise because the spectrum was not right, et cetera. But anyway, and then at Stanford, we were working on IBC sales and Ronsington made a first sale of 28%, 28.3% under concentration, which is not on the record table because it's disputed by some people because spectrum has been readjusted, et cetera. But it was a very small source code. It was 3 mm by 5 mm. And I was working on a way to make a bigger sales and to Mount it on a substrate that we could be cool down because the 28% sales, you could flash it at 200 X or 300 X, but you cannot put it continuously at 200.

[00:15:38.230] - Torsten

Yeah. So concentrate X means concentration. So 200 times sunlight.

[00:15:42.760] - Pierre

Yeah, 20 Watts per square centimeter. And so I was working on the metabolization on double-level metal to be able to solder the cell onto a cooling substrate, maintain the sales at that concentration for a long time.

[00:16:03.600] - Torsten


[00:16:04.060] - Pierre

So that was my work at Stanford and I made the first mounting ready IBC sales.

[00:16:14.920] - Torsten


[00:16:15.870] - Pierre

And that was 27%.

[00:16:18.250] - Torsten

Excellent. Cool.

[00:16:20.350] - Pierre

And then that's the technology that we developed at Stanford, because Stanford is a concern trader company. To start with, the idea was to make a central receiver so solar cells on the tower and surrounded by fieldstand that reflects the lights to the tower. That was the business plan of SunPower until we ran out of money.

[00:16:53.730] - Torsten

You mentioned earlier, in Europe the focus was on low-cost technology. You always focused on the monocrystalline high-efficiency approach. And I mean, fast forward to the present. One could say you were right because nowadays almost everybody has switched to monocrystalline-based technologies. But in between there was a massive phase where like the rollout on the gigawatt scale was mostly done on multicrystalline material. Right. But that has basically been faded out now totally or faced out totally.

[00:17:30.810] - Pierre

Well, I wouldn't say I was right because I've said many times that there will be room for monocrystalline and multicrystalline in the market. And I was wrong there because nowadays it's 100% monocrystalline.

[00:17:48.310] - Torsten

But where I was right is that you were just nice to the others?

[00:17:54.010] - Pierre

No, because the amount of energy to make a multicrystalline wafer is considerably less than what you need to make a mono crystalline wafer. So I thought that there will always be room for both. But we realized that the cutting cost, making the wafer, slicing the ingots became so good with monoprocess, the diamond wires that we used to cut the wafers out of the ingots only 40 microns in diameter. In 1990, it was about 280 Mike rounds.

[00:18:44.440] - Torsten


[00:18:49.450] - Pierre

But you cannot do that with the cost of cutting the wafers with monocrystalline, it's quite higher than with monocrystalline, and you cannot go down to 40 Micron diameter for the wires.

[00:19:07.200] - Torsten

Yeah. So since we talk about the early days in your solar journey and where we are now, so what would be the like, say, maybe five most important milestones that has led to the massive efficiency increase, but also cost reduction in terms of euros per kilowatt?

[00:19:33.790] - Pierre

Well, picking five close to five is very difficult because there are thousands of step, thousands of little inventions that have reduced the price or the cost by $10.

[00:19:49.390] - Torsten


[00:19:51.910] - Pierre

But very often when I teach the young engineers in China and I ask them, what do you think is the most important thing in the improvement of efficiency of solar cells? And they would say, oh, it's perk cell. It's the passive edit contact, or it's the Silicon nitride or aluminum oxide. And I said, yes, but the most important thing, in my view, is people have learned to control contamination. Contamination control has been the most important thing in the development of solar cell. I remember when people were making solar cells in the 1980s, they were doing it in a very dirty environment. There was no cleanroom. There was no cleanroom garments. They were smoking next to the diffusion tubes. They were handling wafers with Bay hands, eating sandwiches in the production line. It was the dirtiest place you could imagine. And I was making solar cells in a microelectronic lab with Bunny suits, with gloves, with masks, with very well controlled environment. And we were measuring lifetime. Nobody was measuring lifetime in the production line, but now everybody does. Everybody has a symptom lifetime measurement tool. Right. At that time, we didn't have a lifetime measurement tool, but we were measuring lifetime all the time to just make sure to control the contamination.

[00:21:39.870] - Pierre

That was the most important thing. If we didn't have that, the perk cell would still be 12% efficient and we wouldn't have a Tom Con sell greater than 13% because the efficiency would be dominated by recombination in the bulk, almost eliminated the recombination in the bulk. We limited by OJ and radiative recombination, and we're limited by the recombination at the front or the back surface.

[00:22:12.840] - Torsten


[00:22:13.380] - Pierre

If we passivate one surface, then it's the other surface that dominates the efficiency, and that is absolutely critical.

[00:22:22.740] - Torsten


[00:22:23.370] - Pierre

Contamination control has changed photovoltaics over the last ten years, 15 years, I would say still in the beginning of 2000, people were still producing sales in quite dirty environments. It became really clean only in the last, I would say the last decade or so.

[00:22:46.330] - Torsten

Yeah. I did my master thesis with Andrew Blakers at the Australian National University, and also I was also in the cleanroom. And the most important rule Andrew gave me was don't talk to the wafer.

[00:23:05.770] - Pierre

Yes. So I think in the world myself at the University of Rubin, Stanford University and UNSW, I think those were the three group who understood the cleanliness, the need for clean processing, for highlight what we call it high lifetime processing. And that was the first training session of all the engineers I had hired in my groups, either at SunPower or at Trina Solar or other company. The first training class is high lifetime processing. How do you control contamination? How do you handle wafers? How do you handle chemicals? How do you know how to clean the wafers, how to clean solar cells. That is the most critical aspect of photovoltaics.

[00:24:09.530] - Torsten

Interesting. So it's avoiding contamination like the top. And I guess like young PV engineers, they take it for granted, right. The way we do solar cells today. So they might not even think of it.

[00:24:29.310] - Pierre

Yeah. And also technicians don't have a chance to have the same education that the engineers or scientists or PhD. Just a few years ago, I still heard from production managers saying that it doesn't matter what you put in the Crucible, you still get the same efficiency at the end and you have to tell, no, that's not true. You drop a little piece of metal in a Crucible of multicrystalline Crucible that contains one tons of Silicon and you drop a little piece of metal in it and you completely destroy the efficiency. Andrew Blakers, Martin Green, Dick Swanson. Those are people who understood that concept, that we absolutely need to keep contamination to the lowest level. And we use technique that were developed in Microelectronics like getting an oxidation with chlorine, for example, with TCA forming gas and Yell hydrogenations, RCA cleaning, all of those things come from Microelectronics and have been imported from Microelectronics by those groups of Stanford, PNSW and the University of there was absolutely no concept of RCA clean of… soft in photovoltaics before it's been imported by Stanford and UNSW.

[00:26:25.670] - Torsten

Yeah, wonderful. Interesting. So that's the overarching subject, the clean list in manufacturing. Would you dare to mention one or two more massive miles?

[00:26:40.950] - Pierre

Oh, yeah. There are plenty of things to mention. Screen printing evolved tremendously, being able to make 100 Micron wide fingers to about 20 microns these days. Yeah, that's absolutely amazing. Well, when we're talking about JNot, for example, the recombination parameters, we're talking reduction from 1000 FEMPs per square centimeters to just one or two or three or less than ten these days. But that's due to contamination and the way we do try has been a tremendous improvement in solar cell processing. So being able to incorporate charge in Silicon nitride and make sure they are stable to passivate the surface with inverter or accumulation layers, and then after that, Silicon nitride with positive charge and then aluminum oxide with negative charge has been the next important step. There are a lot of very small improvements, and it's difficult to mention those and not mention all the other one.

[00:28:28.810] - Torsten

Yeah, but excellent. Thanks. At least from the top of your head, top three or four milestones in PV technology. So what do you do? Is you're now the terror man today when you look forward, I would say your key mission is now to think about how does manufacturing look like? How does an industry look like? How does the supply chain look like when you reach like a terawatt annual production volume? Right. Just for our listeners. So the annual production capacity of PV solar cells right now is, let's say, around 200 gigawatts a year. Yeah.

[00:29:24.020] - Pierre

So probably in 2022 we will produce more than 250 gigawatts. We just passed a very important milestone. We counted that the cumulative capacity of PV has reached 1 kw just the beginning of this year, probably in February, probably in March. Some people say it's probably will be in June, but it doesn't really matter. We reach a very important milestone. One terawatt of PV, and that represents about 5% of the world generated electricity. Now, what we've seen over the last 40 years is the production and the cumulative capacity of TV has been a growing exponential. And we have roughly an average doubling of the capacity and a doubling of the Neanderthal production every three years. And if you look in a lower plot, you see those two straight lines. One is the annual production and one is the community production, of course, with little variation from year to year. But it's almost a straight line showing that it's been an exponential growth function for the last 40 years. The gap between those two lines are roughly about four years. So when you say that we have reached a threshold of community capacity of one terawatt, it means that in roughly about four or five years we'll reach a one terawatt annual production.

[00:31:21.030] - Pierre

That is huge. And I think the PV industry at the very important juncture, I would say it's not business as usual before. We were trying to reduce cost and improve reliability. Then after that, we focus on efficiency, trying to improve efficiency. And that's what we're still doing. Now we need to add another aspect to it, sustainability. We cannot afford to develop technology that will not be sustainable when we reach a terawatt of annual production or two terawatts or three terawatts of annual production. And it goes very quickly. It took 60 years to install the first 500 gigawatts and just four years to install the next half terawatt.

[00:32:17.820] - Torsten


[00:32:18.660] - Pierre

Okay. And it will take another four years to install the next terawatt. Right. And things are going so fast. We're using very large quantities of silver. And if everybody switched to Etor junction, we won't be able to do it because they won't be enough India and they won't be enough lismit is used for interconnecting the ether junction. So ourselves because we cannot do high-temperature soldering with amorphous Silicon. So we limited to use India has a TCO on each side of the store sale, so that's not sustainable. And if we look just for the silver right now, we use about 15 milligrams per Watt, which means that we're using roughly about 10% of the overall production in the world. More than 10%. And if we go to a terawatt or 1.5 kilowatt per year, which is very soon. Well, you use 100%. Right. And we cannot continue this way. So we need to make sure that everything we do in terms of technology development, in terms of manufacturing, in terms of growth, in production volume, we need to make sure we do it sustainably.

[00:34:09.850] - Torsten

Just to make sure we don't. Everybody is on the same page here. How do you define sustainability? Right.

[00:34:19.070] - Pierre

Yeah, I think you have a good point. There's many aspect of sustainability. Number one, we need to make sure that we can grow financially. Right. So we need to make sure that we don't have to borrow money all the time to build new factories. Okay. And for the first time in history, the PV industry is capable to grow.

[00:34:52.770] - Torsten

Sorry, you're cut. Hang on.

[00:34:56.790] - Pierre

The energy payback time.

[00:34:59.130] - Torsten

Yeah, you were just cut just then. Could you maybe repeat you mentioned the industry is capable for the very first time to grow.

[00:35:11.190] - Pierre

And then with the earning it generates.

[00:35:15.090] - Torsten

All right. From the own cash flow. All right.

[00:35:19.230] - Pierre


[00:35:20.110] - Torsten


[00:35:20.520] - Pierre

And that's quite new in the PV industry. It was not the case 20 years ago. 20 years ago, the PV industry had to borrow money all the time to grow and build new factories. And then when they could not borrow, they went bankrupt. It's not the case anymore. All right.

[00:35:42.090] - Torsten

Financial stability.

[00:35:43.830] - Pierre

Financial sustainability. The other one is the energy sustainability. You need to make sure that you don't grow faster than your energy payback time allows you. So if it takes ten years to pay back the energy you consume to make the panels, you cannot grow more than 10% per year. Right. Because if you do, you keep increasing the primary energy demand. So these days, the energy payback time of a panel is in the range of one year. So we can grow 100% per year if we need to. Okay. So energy sustainability tick. We can do that. And that was not the case 20 years ago. 20 years ago. Right. Then there's the material sustainability. We need to make sure that the material we consume to make the solar cell not only the material that's added in the solar cell, but also the CO2 emissions, the wastewater that we generate, et cetera, all of that needs to be sustainable. Okay. So if we think about CO2 emissions is the same thing as energy, we need to have a CO2 payback time. Okay. So if we save CO2 by implementing PV panels or PV systems in the world, we need to make sure that quickly it pays back the CO2 you consume, that you consume to generate the electricity or the material that you need to manufacture the panel.

[00:37:39.390] - Pierre

But the biggest problem these days is silver. That is the same problem, although it's more acute for Top Con and Etor junction. But we use too much silver. We need to reduce silver to less than five milligrams per Watt. Okay. For park, we are roughly about the best in class. Park production line use about 15 milligrams per Watt.

[00:38:15.930] - Torsten


[00:38:16.960] - Pierre

So we need to reduce that at least by a factor of tree, if not eliminating completely. For top Con, we use about 50% more. And the reason is because you need silver on both sides for the top, although on the front, it's aluminum, silver based, it's not pure silver. And then for HR Junction, you use more than twice the amount of perk. So you have about 30 milligrams per Watt.

[00:38:53.010] - Torsten


[00:38:55.450] - Pierre

And we need to go down to less than five.

[00:38:59.950] - Torsten

To have sustainable solar cell production on a terrawatt scale and beyond.

[00:39:07.630] - Pierre

Yes. So there are different scenarios for net zero emissions, for transitioning from where we are today to a net zero CO2 emission. There are different scenarios. The one I like best is 100% renewable. All the other ones assume that we could store the CO2, capture and store it, and sequester the CO2. And I have some doubt that will be possible because it hasn't been proven technology in a very large scale. And if you store the CO2, you need to store it forever, right? Yeah. Tricky. The only one that I consider as viable is 100% renewable. And that means that we need to deploy about 70 terawatts and then about 40 terawatt of wind. And then you have pump Hydro for storage, and you have also the existing Hydro, and you have a bit of biomass. But PV becomes, well, PV is King. It's the one that allows you to grow to that level. And the advantage of PV, you could install it anywhere in the world. Absolutely, anywhere in the world. You could install PV, which is not the same for wind or other technologies. And you could deploy at any scale. You could put ten Watts to ten gigawatts to get 70 terawatt of PV by 2015.

[00:41:15.790] - Pierre

There's different ways to do it. You could grow very quickly right now and then stabilize it. Or you could grow slower. But if you grow slower, you have to grow to a very, very high level of annual production, like ten terawatts per year. And then when you reach 2015. The problem is that you don't need PV anymore and you're going to kill the industry because you have major downturn.

[00:41:46.330] - Torsten

So that's why you wouldn't reach it, because everybody would be scared of building new factories just before the end of the boom, right?

[00:41:55.120] - Pierre

Yes. What we need to do and what I tell people the next ten years will be absolutely decisive. We need to keep growing at 25% per year, even 30%, if we can. The industry can. The problem is not manufacturing. The problem is not growth of the industry. The problem is sustainability and integration.

[00:42:21.730] - Torsten

Integration of what?

[00:42:26.930] - Pierre

You need to have the demand for PV. You cannot install photovoltaic panels and have no demand or no interconnection. You need transmission and you need storage. You need people to use that electricity. You need to electrify the entire energy economy.

[00:42:47.040] - Torsten

Yeah. You mentioned pumped Hydro for storage, right? Obviously. And this is what many people are concerned about is the wind doesn't blow day and night, and obviously, the sun definitely doesn't shine at night. Is that the way to go pumped Hydro or for storage, or do you see other technologies?

[00:43:12.590] - Pierre

Oh, there are plenty of technologies, and I think Pampydro is great, but it's not the solution. Depending in the energy business, it's never been the case where one technology covers all the needs. We need reversification. So we need PV, wind and Hydro and biomass. And for storage, we need batteries, we need pump Hydro, we need compressed air, and we need thermal storage. The other day I was on LinkedIn and somebody mentioned somebody was talking about 100% renewable, et cetera. And somebody says, Well, I hope that you're not afraid to have cold shower during the night. And I'm thinking, this guy never heard about hot water tank.

[00:44:09.600] - Torsten

Yeah. That's the easy way.

[00:44:12.890] - Pierre

There's a diversity of storage media that we need, and it could be thermal. I mean, if you need to heat or cool your house, the first things you do is make sure you have a good thermal mass in your house, right?

[00:44:32.470] - Torsten


[00:44:33.570] - Pierre

So you heat that thermal mass or you cool that thermal mass to make sure that house is constant so you could have a shower at night. My house in Australia is 100% powered by PV, and I have no problem. There's absolutely no CO2 emitted from my house except when we open a bottle or something.

[00:45:09.350] - Torsten


[00:45:12.510] - Pierre

So we Cook with electricity. Even the barbecue is electric, the car is electric.

[00:45:19.770] - Torsten

All right. So you already managed your CO2 footprint. Excellent. So you run a company that's basically self-employed now, and you run under the name Amrock Limited. I just Googled Amrock. So I was wondering, how did you come up with that name? Because in German, the German Wikipedia says it's a type of chicken from the US, which is very productive in terms of eggs.

[00:45:51.330] - Pierre


[00:45:52.590] - Torsten

Were you thinking of that?

[00:45:57.190] - Speaker 2

I didn't know it's a good thing. No, Amrock. It just came from my name and my wife's name. My wife is Anne Marie, and that's Am. And Rock is the English translation of Care became natural, and it sounds great. So that's how it came.

[00:46:22.100] - Torsten

All right, maybe you can use the chicken as your new logo or so. Yeah, probably just check out German Wikipedia anyhow. So just tell us, what do you do as a professional these days? Your consultant? Who are your customers? What kind of service do you provide?

[00:46:47.050] - Pierre

Well, I do quite a bit of work with a few companies. I usually don't take short-term consulting contracts because busy enough with what I do with the other company. So I still work with Trina Sovereign as a part time chief scientist. I am also on the board of two companies that are active in PV. So one is Oxford PV, the other one is BT Imaging in Sydney. So one is, like you mentioned, a pair of Sky Silicon tandem technology developer. And the other one is a company in Sydney making characterization tools for the PV industry. I'm also advisor of a few other companies, not officially a director, but just an advisor to them, startups that are related. And I try to keep all of those companies far away in terms of technology, so there is no conflict of interest or risk of leakage.

[00:48:07.740] - Torsten


[00:48:08.120] - Pierre

And then the rest of my time is going on at the University as a young professor or organizing conference or reviewing manuscripts and helping young engineers and young companies, startup companies. But that's what I do and I keep me busy with all that.

[00:48:34.700] - Torsten

So no need to call you. You're booked out?

[00:48:37.930] - Pierre

Pretty much, yes.

[00:48:40.210] - Torsten

We have a waiting list. You talked about young engineers throughout your career. You must have hired many people. And so we switch topic a little bit. So how do you pick talent? So this must have been a very important aspect to achieve all those fantastic engineering scientific results that you and your team have achieved. And hiring, getting the right people into the team is an essential part. It's not just about the idea, but it's also about the people. Right. The interaction, the skills, the character.

[00:49:26.730] - Pierre

I'm interested in engineers, hiring scientists, researcher. What I'm interested in is to see the way they think and they can create a new problem in interviewing.

[00:49:52.990] - Torsten

Sorry, you were cut again. Repeat.

[00:50:03.050] - Torsten

Yes. So I've been known to be a difficult interviewer, asking difficult questions. So often I put the new candidates in front of a board and ask him a problem that is outside of this area of competence. So for example, you would have a semiconductor engineers, and I would ask, for example, a little problem with pumping water from a reservoir, for example, and to evaluate the dimensioning of the pump or the tubes or the pipes, et cetera. Not necessarily having the exact answer, but I want to know how he thinks about a problem. And also, I was always looking for people who understand device physics but also like to work in the lab and make solar sales. And so I would ask device questions relatively simple because not everybody is expert in device physics. But I want to make sure that the engineer at least have a knowledge about physics of semiconductor. And then often I would ask if they like cooking, cooking, okay, cooking. And they will look at me. Is that a serious question? And what I found out is that the best process engineers are people who like cooking in the kitchen. They like cooking, taste the sauce, et cetera.

[00:51:57.170] - Pierre

It's not always true if the guy says, no, I don't like cooking, the women says, I don't like cooking. I don't reject necessarily. But it was a question that I like to ask people.

[00:52:10.880] - Torsten

Excellent. And you've worked together with great people, and over the years, you started out as an engineer, but you became a manager, group leader. So how did you develop that skill? Was there a role model or a book you read that helped you a lot in becoming a better manager and leader?

[00:52:39.610] - Pierre

Well, I always thought that a good manager need to have three fundamental qualities. Number one, they need to know what they're talking about. No bullshit. They need to be able to do the work themselves. Right. Well, we're talking about solar cells. A good manager needs to be somebody experience in PV. The second thing is that they need to work hard as much as I do, as much as other people, as much as their direct report. And then the third quality needs to be a good human being.

[00:53:39.150] - Torsten

How do you judge? How do you find how did you find that?

[00:53:47.910] - Pierre

I think it's pretty obvious if you work with someone.

[00:53:51.110] - Torsten


[00:53:51.380] - Pierre

It's pretty obvious if that person is a good human being or not. If you have a family issue or kid issue or sickness and you ask your boss, can I have a day off? And if the well being of the person is more important than the revenue of the company, I think you could charge that this person is a good human being.

[00:54:19.530] - Torsten


[00:54:21.690] - Pierre

So that's three qualities. And then the rest is yeah, it's a little bit secondary, but the three fundamental quality of a good manager are those three.

[00:54:37.150] - Torsten

Excellent. Thanks for sharing that. My final question always is. And you mentioned a little bit, but maybe you can come back to that again. What is required to get solar to the next level? So now that we have achieved one terawatt, in a nutshell, what is required to bring us to get us to 100% renewables, a larger portion of solar?

[00:55:06.970] - Pierre

Well, I already mentioned sustainability that we need to add to the condition for kiving. So we know already that the cost has to be low and continue to come down. We need to make sure that the reliability is good. So the panel will survive 25 years, 30 years, maybe 50 years. We're talking about 50 years or so. But I seen recently that power plants these days, the average lifetime of a power plant is about 32 years. 32 years. It's pretty good. Yeah, probably not everywhere. There are some climates very difficult, like tropical climates, very difficult. But sustainability, we need to make sure sustainable technology. Now, the main challenge that we are facing is integration. Can the world install multi terwatt per year? We know we can produce it. Yeah, I'm certain we can produce it. So the industry can grow to that level. The sustainability issue, material sustainability we're working on it will solve the problem. The silver problem, the engine problem, the dismit problem will solve all of that. I'm not sure that we'll be able to deploy fast enough because we need a transmission line, we need interconnection, we need storage, we need electrification of the world these days.

[00:57:05.490] - Torsten

Sorry, you're cut again. Hold the speech.

[00:57:10.770] - Torsten

Energy. Right.

[00:57:12.950] - Torsten

Sorry, you were cut again. You're saying these days?

[00:57:18.070] - Pierre

Yeah. Electricity is only 20% of the world's consumption of energy.

[00:57:25.340] - Torsten

Yeah. All right.

[00:57:28.330] - Pierre

We driving cars and we're driving cars and we use petrol. We Cook and we use gas, we eat the building and we use gas. And in industry, we use coal for making steel or even to make Silicon. Right?

[00:57:43.180] - Torsten


[00:57:44.350] - Pierre

And we use petrol for chemistry, for plastic, et cetera. So we need to transform all of that with electricity that will power directly or indirectly to, for example, synthetic fuels or to other way to transport energy to power the entire energy economy. And so electric is an issue, interconnecting the communities, the cities and countries to transport energy. So we need EastWest transmission line to do daily shift of energy, right?

[00:58:39.600] - Torsten


[00:58:40.170] - Pierre

And when it's dark in Sydney, there's still light in Perth in Australia. And you could transport the energy on the other side. And we need north and south transmission lines because, for example, in Germany, you have a lot of wind in the winter in the north, and you need to transport that in the south, and then you have sun in the summer and you need to transport that to the north, right?

[00:59:04.640] - Torsten


[00:59:05.990] - Pierre

So we need transmission line and then we need storage. And there are different ways of storing the energy. Could be thermal, it could be compressed there, it could be chemicals in the batteries, or it could be in pump Hydro, for example, water. So kinetic and potential energy, all of that needs to be installed at the same time as we install TV. We need electric cars, we need electric bus, we need to electrify all the trains. What do we do with the boats? We need to convert boats from petrol to ammonia, for example. And ammonia would be generated from hydrogen that will be produced from green electricity. All of that new energy economy needs to be put in place and that will be difficult.

[01:00:06.990] - Torsten

Yes. Plenty to be done for this and I guess also the next generation of engineers and of course, businessmen. Hey, Pierre, it's been wonderful to look back and look into the future together with you. All the best. Enjoy the rest, the remaining days and your holidays in Spain. That's where you are now and hope to see you soon at some conference. Workshop. I guess latest will be Milano at the world conference in Italy.

[01:00:46.510] - Pierre

Yes, definitely will be there at the world conference in Milano it was great talking to you, Torso. It was great. I hope I didn't talk too large days for your questions. Yeah.

[01:01:03.490] - Torsten

Excellent. Thanks a lot.

[01:01:06.310] - Pierre

Thank you, Torsten. See you soon.

[01:01:08.400] - Torsten

Bye you soon. Bye.

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