Crystalline silicon PV becoming more efficient with new technologies

Tier-1 solar cell makers are developing higher efficiency crystalline silicon photovoltaics with new technologies like selective emitters, heterojunction with intrinsic thin layer cells, and buried contacts. Higher efficiency counteracts the effects of grinding competition, disappearing subsidies, and price declines, notes Lux Research.

September 21, 2011 — Tier-1 solar cell makers are developing higher efficiency crystalline silicon (c-Si or x-Si) photovoltaics with new technologies like selective emitters, heterojunction with intrinsic thin layer (HIT) cells, and buried contacts. Higher efficiency counteracts the effects of grinding competition, disappearing subsidies, and price declines, notes Lux Research in a new report.

Low-cost Chinese solar panels are ramping up pressure on x-Si cell and module producers, such as SunPower and Sanyo, said Pallavi Madakasira, a Lux Analyst and lead author of the report. The threat from these low-cost suppliers pushes traditional players to “keep increasing the efficiency of their panels just to compete on cost — without earning a price premium.”

Higher-efficiency panels reduce the bill of materials (BOM) costs for glass, aluminum, copper, etc. on a per-watt ($/W) basis. Lux analysts found that a 1% improvement in absolute efficiency contributes to $0.05 to $0.08 savings per peak watt.

The higher upfront costs of higher-efficiency modules makes them unappealing for residential/commercial installs. The modules are sold to utility-scale solar installations, where more funds are available and installation reliability expectations are higher.

The high-efficiency trend is prompting a “new wave of innovation and R&D spending” at equipment suppliers. These suppliers are revisiting consummables, costs, and technologies. This is in tandem with research labs and universities, which Lux calls “core enablers to commercialization of new technologies.” Tier 1 PV manufacturers are collaborating with research labs or hiring talent from these pools to gain an edge.

Lux’s report “Traversing the Road to Higher Crystalline Silicon Efficiencies: Who Stands to Change the Game, and How it Will Play Out,” is part of the Lux Research Solar Components Intelligence service and provides guidance into the factors driving solar systems investment, offering insights on future opportunities. Visit www.luxresearchinc.com for more information.




Six key cost reduction themes drive strategy for cell and module makers. (Source: Lux Research)



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