Intel spins off SpectraWatt division

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Intel has spun off its SpectraWatt photo-voltaic division which develops and manufactures the building blocks of solar-energy systems..

SpectraWatt will develop photo-voltaic cells for companies that make solar panels which convert sunlight into electricity.

The new organisation's cell fabrication plant will be built in Oregon and expects to begin supplying the market by mid-2009.

Research and development will concentrate on making the cells and their manufacturing process more efficient.

This is the same model on which Intel's processor business has operated for four decades, in that the advances in fabrication processes are as important as the design of the chips themselves.

SpectraWatt is starting life with US$50m in the coffers from an impressive line-up of financial backers, including Intel Capital, the chip-maker's venture arm.

Other investors include Cogentrix Energy LLC, the power generation subsidiary of investment bank Goldman Sachs, private equity group PGC Clean Energy Technology Fund and German solar systems supplier Solon AG.

Generous government investment in Germany has made the country a world leader in solar energy. German companies are increasingly attracting interest from global venture funds.

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