Solar

PV materials costs breaking the silicon cycle

The cumulative market for PV materials excluding polysilicon (see image below for the complete cell-to-frame list) will surge 50% over the next five years to top $12.8B, and will be approaching the cost of polysilicon feedstock for module manufacturers, says a new report from Greentech Media.

February 17, 2011 – The cumulative market for PV materials excluding polysilicon will surge 50% over the next five years to top $12.8B, and will be approaching the cost of polysilicon feedstock for module manufacturers, says a new report from Greentech Media.

A few highlights from the report:

Costs falling faster. Total c-Si module material costs (see image below for the complete cell-to-frame list) will drop by 16% through 2014, says GTM Research. That’s more than cumulative material costs for CdTe (9%) and CIGS (12%), and about even with a-Si (16%).

c-Si isn’t the driver. Not too long ago silicon cost $150/kg, so it made nearly three-quarters of total PV module materials costs; other materials costs for cells and modules were just 27% of total costs. Now with Si at around $40/kg, silicon only represents 53% of total costs, and other materials 47%.

The case for paste. The cost of paste is going up due to dependence on metals (e.g. silver), but so is quality which increases cell conversion efficiency, and that means using less of it (gm/cell). Net result: paste cost in terms of $/Wp will actually decrease over time. Note that if anything, silver prices have risk to the upside, forecasted to top $25/lb.

CIGS takes the thin-film wheel. Thin-film materials, a $1.5B market in 2010, will more than double to $3.1B by 2014 (a 19.5% CAGR). CdTe was the dominant factor in 2010, but CIGS production will now take over to drive this train — CIGS materials will increase from $218M to $928M over that period.

Click to Enlarge
Total PV materials revenue share (crystalline silicon and thin-film), 2010–2014. (Source: GTM Research)